House passes bill to fight algae blooms blamed partly on farm runoff

By Whitney Forman-Cook

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2015 - With strong bipartisan support, the House has passed legislation that would give the EPA 90 days to prepare an assessment and propose a management plan for cyanotoxins - the toxic byproducts of algae blooms - found in drinking water.

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The Drinking Water Protection Act will be the first step in preventing another Lake Erie water emergency, like the one that left 400,000 residents in and around Toledo, Ohio, without clean drinking water for days last summer, said Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, who sponsored the legislation. The bill is a revised version of legislation originally offered by Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur.

While it has been long in coming, Congress has finally taken a critical step to arm communities against the threat of toxic algae, which I hope expedites the U.S. EPA's work on long-overdue guidelines,” Kaptur, the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, said in a press release.

The bill was approved on Wednesday by a vote of 375 to 37 - with all Democrats in attendance voting ‘yes.'

Harmful algal blooms have been increasing in volume and frequency in western Lake Erie. They are being blamed in part on nutrient phosphorus flowing into the lake from farms. Sewage treatment plants and stormwater drains also contribute to the problem, scientists say.

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