(The Center Square) – The state has been paying some Ohio farmers for the past two years in an effort to reduce Lake Erie water contamination, and at least one city has spent two decades dumping sewage into the lake with little punishment.
Rep. Jon Cross, R-Kenton, said he wants that to change and has proposed legislation that would ban cities from dumping sewage into Lake Erie and increase fines for violators.
“Instead of blaming northwest Ohio farmers, we should thank them for their work to help reduce Lake Erie algae,” Cross said. “The vast majority of farmers are good stewards of the environment.”
City of Maumee officials discovered earlier this month it illegally has been discharging millions of gallons of sewage and other untreated water into the Maumee River for the past 20 years. The issue was reported to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which fined the city $29,936.
Cross said his bill would take a zero tolerance approach and completely prohibit municipalities in Lake Erie’s Western Basin from dumping waste into Ohio waters.
Under Cross’ bill, cities would face a fine of $250,000 for a first offense of knowingly violating the law, with a $1,000 per day fine for ongoing dumping. An additional $1 million would be added to the fine if the discharge exceeds 100 million gallons within a 12-month period.
“We need to shoot one across the bow and take this bill and shove it right up their sewer pipes to catch their attention, enough is enough,” Cross said.
The Maumee City Council recently approved a plan to fix its sewer system that runs off into the river, but the city could be forced to spend as much as $100 million over the next 30 years to make the changes.
Water rates in Maumee are expected to increase around 60% over the next five years to pay for the changes.