Rep. Michael Sheehy's OEC Blog
As a state legislator in the Toledo area, one of the most prevalent and impacting issues that I deal with is the health of the water supply in our area. We have encountered some very serious contamination problems within Lake Erie and our water supply. Nutrient run-off into the lake unwittingly led to harmful, record breaking algal blooms in 2011, and spelled trouble in coming years for the water quality of the lake. At its peak, the bloom covered six times the area of New York City, and caused serious harm to the ecosystem of the lake, and cost lakeside cities $5,500 per day on chemical treatments to reverse the effects.
The algae problem became even more serious in 2014, when the bloom provoked a ban on the tap water in the Toledo area. Nearly half a million people were unable to even come in contact with their water. A state of emergency was declared while water distribution sets were set up to provide residents with clean water. Since these crises, we in the state legislature have been working hard to create legislation to improve the situation and to ensure that a water emergency is prevented from happening in the future.
In this important time of learning and growth in our conservation practices, there are several areas that I hope to see improvement in, the first of which is the classification of the Maumee watershed as distressed. The Maumee River is particularly important to the health of our water in N.W. Ohio and is one of the main tributaries to the Western Lake Erie Basin, and I believe to label it “distressed” would further employ better conservation practices in that area.
Another area I wish to see improvement in to see the health of Lake Erie enhanced is the prohibition of microbeads in personal care products such as soaps. At the moment, such a prohibition would come in the form of House Bill 400 which is jointly sponsored by State Representative John Patterson (D- Jefferson) and State Representative Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and which I am a co-sponsor of. It has been proven that microbeads from such products are the main source of garbage found in the Great Lakes. This is made more problematic because these microbeads absorb toxins they encounter which then move up the food chain back to us. This is why I decided to support this legislation as it moves through the Ohio Legislature.
Further key legislation coming in 2016 will be two joint resolutions in both the Ohio House of Representatives and in the Ohio Senate. In the House, HJR 5 is jointly sponsored by Representative Michelle Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Representative Kent Smith (D-Euclid) which I am a co-sponsor of and in the Senate SJR 3 is sponsored by Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Austintown). If passed and placed on the soonest ballot after passing these pieces of legislation would seek the approval of Ohio voters to issue state bonds to fund underground water infrastructure improvements. Eligible projects would help preserve and expand sewer and water capital improvements for municipal corporations, counties, townships, and other government entities. If voters approve the resolution, the General Assembly may issue not more than $100 million each fiscal year over 10 years for sewer and water capital improvements, injecting $1 billion into targeted infrastructure investment. Although this resolution would only provide $1 billion for the EPA estimated $27.7 billion Ohio needs in water infrastructure improvements it is a step in the right direction.
To ensure lasting change, a collaborative effort will need to be made by state and federal officials as well as the agricultural industry, municipalities and environmental groups. A well rounded strategy is required to solve this multifaceted problem but I have every confidence that Ohio is up to the task to ensure protection of our greatest resource, Lake Erie.
Michael P. Sheehy
46th House District