Mich. — Members of Congress have called for more aggressive
federal action to prevent toxic algae from contaminating the Great
Lakes and other waterways around the nation, such as an outbreak
on Lake Erie last summer that left more than 400,000 people
without safe tap water for two days.
approved a bill this week that would require the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency to develop within 90 days of
enactment a plan for assessing and managing risk from algal toxins
such as cyanobacteria — a type of bacteria commonly known as
blue-green algae. The bacteria produce a toxin called microcystin,
which can cause liver damage.
Such toxins pose
"a serious concern to human health and safety," said
Rep. Bob Latta, an Ohio Republican and the measure's chief
It was approved
Tuesday on a 375-to-37 vote and sent to the Senate, where a
similar bill has been introduced.
shallowest of the five Great Lakes, has been plagued with large
blooms of cyanobacteria for more than a decade. In addition to
endangering people, the toxins can kill pets, farm animals and
wildlife. Severe bacterial pollution last August prompted
officials to issue a do-not-drink order for public water systems
in parts of northwestern Ohio, including Toledo, and southeastern
Experts blame the
outbreaks largely on phosphorus and other nutrients that wash into
the lake from fertilized farmland, sewage treatment plants and
House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings revealed that other
toxins related to algae could cause problems as well, Latta said.
Robert Daguillard said Wednesday the agency does not comment on
pending legislation. But he said EPA has been evaluating
microcystin and other contaminants linked to algal blooms and
crafting guidelines for helping state and local officials deal
development are methods lab technicians can use to test water
systems for algal toxins, as well as public health advisories with
information about microcystin and another toxin.
working diligently with its partners to combat the nitrogen and
phosphorus pollution problems in the U.S.," the agency said
in a written statement.