Fast forward to last week and Toledo, Ohio showed why the so called rain tax was needed. The algae bloom in Lake Erie impacted the safety of the water supply for Toledo and surrounding areas. For almost 2 days over 400,000 people found out that they couldn't drink the water coming out of the taps because of the algae bloom in Lake Erie near the water intake for the region's water supply. The picture above shows what the algae looks like. These algae blooms are caused by fertilizer used by home owners and farmers getting into the rivers and lakes as storm runoff.
This problem can be seen in many water systems around the United States.
Chesapeake Bay is vulnerable because of the increase in residential development near the streams and rivers in the states that supply much of the water to the Bay. The picture below shows what these blooms look like in the Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay was one of the first bodies of water that the Environmental Protection Agency looked at in addressing this issue. The issue was mostly about the impact of the declining health of the Bay on the fishing and crabbing industries. Here is what a report from the EPA said about the Bay:
"Studies completed in the 1970s documented that increases in agricultural development, population growth, and sewage treatment plant discharges were causing the Bay to become nutrient enriched. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two primary nutrients required to sustain aquatic biological productivity. Although phosphorus is the limiting nutrient in most freshwater systems, nitrogen is the limiting nutrient in most coastal estuarine and marine waters. As a result of elevated inputs, however, these nutrients are often present at concentrations in excess of basic nutrient requirements, causing excessive growth of phytoplankton and algae. This condition has two effects:
In shallow areas, the excess algae block the sunlight that important submerged aquatic grasses need to grow. This degrades the habitat and causes the eventual loss of these grass beds.
In deeper areas, the decomposition of dead algae uses up available oxygen in the water. During the warm summer months, oxygen in the bottom waters can only be replenished slowly because little mixing with the high-oxygen surface water occurs. Many bottom-dwelling organisms such as oysters, clams, and worms, which provide food for fish and crabs, cannot survive this prolonged period of low oxygen.
Nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay originate from point sources (e.g., municipal and industrial wastewater), nonpoint sources (e.g., cropland, animal wastes, urban and suburban runoff), and airborne contaminants, including inputs from states within the Bay watershed that are not signatories to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement (New York, West Virginia, and Delaware)."
So what does this problem look like in Howard County? Here are some pictures I have taken of Lake Elkhorn last year that shows the local picture of this problem.
We all know where the water from Lake Elkhorn goes. So the next time you hear someone grumbling about the "rain tax" just think about the pictures above and going without tap water. Some legislators from some counties may want to stick their heads in the sand about this problem but it won't go away. For some ways for home owners to address this runoff one of my past blogs gives some remedies.