Lake Erie has a Bill of Rights

Lake+Erie+has+a+Bill+of+Rights

Faith Patton

Lake Erie provides drinking water for about 11 million people and it even creates a microclimate along its shore, which makes the area fertile and makes it a good spot for nurseries and apple orchards.

All of that is pretty cool and in order to protect Lake Erie, Toledo, Ohio has adapted a Bill of Rights for Lake Erie which allows citizens to sue polluters on behalf on behalf of the lake. It passed with 61% approval in a special election.

The ballot measure will establish that Lake Erie has the right to “naturally evolve and flourish”. The goal, according to Thomas Linzey, executive director and chief legal counsel for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, is to “create a survey of who’s the biggest polluters of the Lake” and bring lawsuits “to end that pollution.”

Runoff pollution is a major cause of Lake Erie’s problems. Runoff pollution includes all debris, chemicals and other pollutants that are picked up by the rain or snow. It has an effect on the algae blooms, which can make water toxic to fish, plant life and people. Back in 2014, residents of Toledo were told not to drink municipal water after tests found unsafe levels of algal toxins. The toxic algae left 110 people sick and half a million without water from the tap.

“We wanted to do something for ourselves,” says Markie Miller, an organizer of ToledoansĀ for Safe Water, in a press release.

Other countries, like Bolivia, have adopted the strategy and the right to “nature”. Chile has been working hard to secure rights for their rivers, which have been damaged during hydro power development.

However, Drewes Farm Partnership filed a legal challenge against the ballot initiative being unconstitutional and unlawful, claiming that even a business who is recognized for improving water quality can never guarantee that water runoff will be prevented from entering Lake Erie.