water

Hold the tuna — ocean explorer Sylvia Earle offers recipe for saving the sea

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Sylvia Earle wants to take tuna off the menu. The same with swordfish and orange roughy. The appetite for fish is depleting the fish population, and that disrupts the ecosystem of the ocean, and that’s a threat to the human population. Large scale commercial fishing is one of many attack on the oceans. “We’ve become so skilled at extracting wild life from oceans, streams and lakes that we’re seeing an unprecedented decline in population,” the marine biologist and explorer said. Earle was at Bowling Green State University Tuesday to give a talk based on her book “The World Is Blue.”  When she was a child, she said, people couldn’t see Earth from outer space. Now children grow up knowing the photo of the blue planet. Yet humans are just coming round to understanding the importance of protecting those vast blue stretches. “No ocean,” Earle said,” no us. No blue, no green. We need water.” Those oceans, whether saltwater or the vast freshwater bodies such as Lake Superior, rely on intricate systems. Just like a computer, removing one small part means it doesn’t work so well. “The attitude has been the ocean is too big to fail,” Earle said. But “never before has the change happened so rapidly or as comprehensively.” Except, she added, 65 million years ago when a comet hit Earth. Those changes have brought increased prosperity for humans, but not so much for wildlife, except cockroaches and rats. That period has also been a great age for exploration. Only in the last several decades could people venture beyond where light penetrates, into the dark depths of the ocean. Earle was on the forefront as the first woman aquanaut. She had to convince officials that a woman could handle the job. Now she’s one of the most prominent explorers. In 1986 when she went on her first mission she was the only woman among 79 men. Recent photos she projected as part of her talk included a larger number of women. The vastness of the ocean leaves much to explore. The average depth is two and a half miles, the deepest parts are seven miles deep.  An enthusiast for marine exploration she urged her listeners “to take the plunge” if they have the opportunity. The over fishing of large species is not the only problem. The decline of algae plays a part in the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reefs. Prochlrococcus, a bacteria so small it was only identified in 1986, generates 20 percent of the world’s oxygen and also takes up carbon. Nations around the world are setting aside Marine Protected Areas. (Some have exceptions for local, subsistence fishing.) These give the ecosystems a chance to rebound. But only 3 percent of the oceans have been set aside. Treating the waterways as a sewer and place to dispose of trash, much of it plastic, puts those systems at risk. Somehow, she said, humans survived for centuries without plastic. Now it is seen as an essential.  She advocated for collecting and repurposing what could be. Reducing how much is used — lips do a fine job of getting liquid from a cup in most cases — and reusing plastic implements that we do have. Throwing things away is not an option. “There is no…

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BGSU faculty work was key to impaired designation for Lake Erie

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency and Gov. John Kasich have designated the western basin of Lake Erie – from Toledo to Marblehead – as an impaired waterway due to toxic algae. This designation comes after consultation with experts from Bowling Green State University, among other organizations. “This is a great first step, a recognition of the fact that these blooms are impairing Lake Erie,” said Dr. Timothy Davis, BGSU associate professor of biological sciences. “This is clearly the right decision.” Davis and Drs. George Bullerjahn, Professor of Research Excellence, and Michael McKay, Ryan Endowed Professor, all in the Department of Biological Sciences were part of the team that developed the criteria used to declare the open waters of the western basin of Lake Erie impaired. This included determining what metrics should be used and how they should be used. “We’ve known for a while that these blooms have been a major issue to the region, and this is really a formal acknowledgement of that issue,” Davis said. “It gives us a benchmark to work toward to delist it.” “It’s going to take significant nutrient reduction from the watershed to remove the impairment designation,” Davis said. “In conjunction with Annex 4, which recommends a 40 percent phosphorus reduction, we will now have great targets to aim for to reduce the impact harmful algal blooms are having in the western basin of Lake Erie.” The team advising the Ohio EPA also included scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ohio State University’s Sea Grant College Program, the University of Toledo and the U.S. EPA in making this determination. Lake Erie — its water, inhabitants and surrounding habitat — has long been the topic of research by BGSU biology faculty. Bullerjahn, Davis and McKay all have a deep history of expertise in and support of Lake Erie water quality research and support. Davis has worked with the EPA previously; he was appointed to the agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), a federal advisory committee that provides advice, information and recommendations to the EPA’s Office of Research and Development on its research programs. As part of this three-year term, Davis serves as a member of the BOSC Safe and Sustainable Water Resources (SSWR) subcommittee. He has spent the last 11 years studying the ecology of harmful algal blooms (HABs). During the course of his research, Davis looked at understanding the environmental drivers of HABs in several lakes throughout the Northeast, including Lake Erie and Lake Champlain. Internationally known experts in harmful algal blooms and other aspects of water quality, Bullerjahn and McKay are involved in multiple projects centered on the lake. Their research into dead zones in Lake Erie’s central basin, with Dr. Paul Morris, has been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute. The information they have gained from that study complements their Ohio Sea Grant and National Science Foundation-funded studies of nitrogen cycling in the Great Lakes. They have taken a particular interest in the winter environment of the lake, work that has been supported by the National Science Foundation, with additional in-kind contributions from the U.S. Coast Guard and Environment Canada. Bullerjahn, Davis and McKay formed a rapid response team when in September 2017 the Maumee River experienced a highly unusual algae…


Science teachers enrich lesson plans with activities about Lake Erie algae blooms

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Area science teachers visited the Bowling Green State University campus early this month to learn how to integrate lessons ripped from the headlines into their lesson plans. The professional development sessions brought about a  dozen teachers to learn ways to teach intermediate and middle school students about issues surrounding algae blooms in Lake Erie. Doug Reynolds, who teaches fifth grade at Holland Elementary, said he was excited about having the professional development on “real world problems.” Like several other teachers in the class this was a return to his alma mater. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from BGSU in 1997 and 2000 respectively. Karen Krontz has yet to earn her BGSU degree. She’s student teaching at Dorr Elementary in Springfield. “It’s so relatable to everyday life,” she said of the issue. During lessons students share stories about how they use water, and they’re aware of the consequences when something goes wrong. In 2014, toxic blooms made the water in Toledo and much of the surrounding area undrinkable. “They know about algae blooms. Some were affected a few years ago, so they’re very interested.” The workshop was taught by BGSU professor George Bullerjahn, one of the leading experts on algae blooms, with Mark Seals, director of the School of Teaching and Learning, and STEM educator and researcher Ken Newbury. The sessions, funded by a $60,000 Ohio Math Science Partnership grant awarded to BGSU, demonstrated simple hands-on activities that showed the dynamics of how algae blooms form and how they can be mitigated. That meant the teachers getting their hands dirty as they put dirt into trays on top of wire screening. The lesson is intended to show how buffer zones around fields can help keep the runoff rich with nutrients applied as fertilizer from flowing into the lake. Those nutrients nourish the plant life in the lake, just as they nourish plants on land. Conor Whelan teaches science to fifth and sixth graders at a school for the gifted in Sandusky. Surrounded by farm field, his students are well aware of the concerns. There are field all around, and run-off comes from those fields. Whelan quizzed Bullerjahn on what was more of a problem in Lake Erie, farms or municipal runoff. Bullerjahn said that overflows from sewage plants were the major problem years ago, but as plants have improved. Also more efforts are being made to separate storm water from waste water. Storm water can overwhelm a water treatment plant forcing the release of untreated water. There are still some problems, he said, but now the flow of nutrients from agriculture represents 80 percent of the input, and much of the attention is focused on reducing that. The use of cover and roots crops which capture the nutrients, and creating buffer areas that can hold and filter the water are key strategies. The problem has been exacerbated by more powerful rainfalls that have gotten more frequent in recent years. Whelan has gotten money from the grant, so that his fifth grade students can go out to the lake and collect their own water samples. “They get excited being out on the water doing something.” That tangible activity not only makes them more aware of this particular issue, but also piques their interest…


NW district weighs water options from Toledo, BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Concerns about water quality, quantity and costs have resulted in a possible regional water system with Toledo in the center. But if that Plan A falls apart, then the northern Wood County area is eyeing a possible Plan B involving Bowling Green water. The Northwestern Water and Sewer District held a public meeting in Perrysburg Thursday evening to talk about possible options for approximately 6,500 of its water customers in northern Wood County. To serve its northern customers, the district currently purchases water from Toledo, then distributes it to Rossford, Northwood, Walbridge, Perrysburg Township, Troy Township and Lake Township. The status quo has been disrupted in the past few years by several concerns about Toledo water quality and cost. Toledo has been ordered to make many water system improvements, with the costs being passed on to customers who already pay large surcharges. Complaints from communities served by the district have shown growing dissatisfaction over the rates and the water quality since the Toledo system went through the algal bloom crisis of 2014. The district’s contract with Toledo water expires in 2024 – which in water agreement years is not much time. Meanwhile, talks with Toledo are still not quite complete, and negotiations with Bowling Green haven’t even begun. Rex Huffman, attorney with the district, explained at Thursday’s meeting that several political entities served by Toledo water share the same concerns. So after months of negotiations, the Toledo Area Water Authority was created. Signing a memorandum of understanding for TAWA were officials from the Northwestern Water and Sewer District, Toledo, Lucas County, Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Whitehouse, Fulton County and Monroe County. “We have a chance to really look at regional water,” Huffman said. “We want to link arms, work together, solve these problems regionally,” he said. The TAWA agreement focuses on providing economical savings and environmentally safe water for all parties, according to Eric Rothstein, an attorney who is helping to form the water authority. “This is an approach to a regional water system that benefits all parties,” Rothstein said. The proposal calls for a redundant water supply source, so the 2014 water crisis is not repeated. And it calls for transparency in the pricing structure – which does not exist now with the Toledo charges, Rothstein said. “There’s a commitment to financial transparency,” he said. “Rates will be based on the cost of doing services,” not on arbitrary surcharges like now. In the last decade, water rates from Toledo doubled the rate of inflation. Rothstein predicted the same for the next decade. He also noted that TAWA may be the best way for the region to address replacement of lead surface lines, and provide bill assistance for those in need. Then came the discussion of Plan B by Jack Jones of Poggemeyer Design Group, which studied water options at the request of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. The commission asked for the study of other options a couple years back when Toledo was a less than willing partner in the regional negotiations. “They thought it prudent to look at options for northern Wood County,” Jones said. Though the Toledo water talks have turned productive, there is still concern that the regional effort may be tenuous. “We need to protect our customers…


Public meeting on Toledo Area Water Authority initiative set for Feb. 15

From NORTHWESTERN WATER & SEWER DISTRICT The Northwestern Water and Sewer District (The District) will host a Regional Water Informational Meeting on water supply options in Wood County Thursday, February 15, 6:30 p.m., Quality Inn, 10612 Fremont Pike, Perrysburg. As an established regional water authority, The District is exploring long-term water supply options for approximately 6,500 water customers in Northern Wood County, including the cities of Rossford and Northwood, The Village of Walbridge, as well as customers in Perrysburg Township, Troy Township, and Lake Township. The District is currently exploring options with the Toledo Regional Water Authority (TAWA) as well as other water sources in Wood County. The purpose of this meeting is to inform the public by presenting information regarding these options, prior to making the decision to sign an agreement with TAWA. Information on TAWA and most the recent Wood County Economic Development Study will be presented. Click for more information on TAWA. Click for information on the most recent Wood County Economic Development Study. https://www.facebook.com/events/1597726893 Directions: From I-75, take Exit 193 (US 20), head east on Fremont Pike (US20), right on Lakevue Drive, the Quality Inn will be on the right with parking and access to the conference room facing US 20. ACCOMIDATIONS/RESERVATIONS: The District’s public meetings and events are accessible to people with disabilities. If you need assistance in participating in a meeting or event due to a disability as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act, please contact The District at least three (3) business days prior to the scheduled meeting or event to request an accommodation. To reserve a seat, please call or email below. Phone: 419-354-9090 EX 193 Email: district@nwwsd.org


Northwestern Water and Sewer District active exploring creation of regional water authority

By DAVID DUPONT & JAN McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Officials from the Northwestern Water and Sewer District will continue to take Part in talks aimed at creating a regional water authority. The proposed Toledo Area Water Authority would purchase and operate the Toledo water plant. Jerry Greiner, the district president, said in an interview that talk of creating a regional water district has been going on for 15 years. But Toledo officials have always insisted they were not able to sell the water plant. Now the new administration of Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz is saying that selling the plant is possible, or at least leasing the facility. That plant is in the midst of a $500 million retrofit, that’s about 60 percent done. Toledo is facing financing the rest of the job. As Toledo does this work required by the EPA, it is facing renegotiating contracts with many of its customers, including NWWSD. That contract expires in October, 2024. Those entities are looking for alternate sources of water. Greiner and the district’s general counsel Rex Huffman have been part of the discussion with eight other entities, including Perrysburg. About a third of the district’s 19,000 customers receive water from Toledo, not including those who get Toledo water through Perrysburg. The district draws its water from five entities in all, including Bowling Green. Greiner said that the possibility of the district contracting with Bowling Green to get water is still open. At a district board meeting this morning (Jan. 25), trustees gave the nod to Greiner and Huffman to go ahead and agree to continue to be part of the planning. No formal vote was taken. Rob Armstrong, one of the nine board members, objected. He was concerned about the district’s representation on the water authority governing board. As outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding, the district would share a seat on the board with Fulton County. The seats are apportioned based on the percentage of Toledo’s water that an entity draws. The district draws 5 percent, and Fulton draws 3 percent, Huffman noted. Perrysburg has its own seat, and it consumes 6 percent. District board members indicated they would favor having Greiner or Huffman represent the district, but restrictions spelled out in the memorandum exclude them. Armstrong said he did not want to go forward not knowing who would represent the district on the board. Board Chair Mark Sheffer said the board’s action simply keeps them at the table to continue investigating the process. The district would still have to negotiate with Fulton County to decide on a representative. At the meeting, Huffman downplayed the importance of the identity of the representative. As shown by the district’s own board, he said, people set aside their parochial interests in favor of the good of the organization once they are on the board. On Jan. 31 the entities will meet to sign off on continuing the process, but that does not commit them to being members. Huffman said the district will have until March 15 to commit to its share, $250,000, of the cost of a study on merging the entities. Following that a public meeting will be held to solicit comment. The final contracts will not be signed until June or so. “We need to hear what people think about this,” Sheffer,…