April 04, 2019
The Ohio State University is sharing key research investigations and findings with state government officials to help solve water quality issues in Ohio.
Director Dorothy Pelanda (Department of Agriculture), Director Laurie Stevenson (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency), and Director Mary Mertz (Department of Natural Resources) were on campus recently to meet with faculty members conducting water quality research. Joy Mulinex, director of the Lake Erie Commission and Anne Vogel, assistant policy director in the Governor’s Office, also attended the March 28 meeting.
Ohio’s new governor, Mike DeWine, has charged these three agency directors to work collaboratively to address Ohio’s long-standing algal bloom problem. Algal blooms, caused by excessive nutrients that reach waterways, can produce harmful toxins to humanity and wildlife.
Algal blooms caused a major crisis in Toledo, Ohio, in 2014 when a toxin the algal bloom generated was discovered in the city’s drinking water supply. To prevent residents from ingesting the toxin, the water system issued an emergency “do not drink” advisory over the course of a warm August weekend. As a result, nearly half a million residents were suddenly without access to drinking water.
Since then, Ohio State and others have collaborated on identifying the contributors and solutions to the recurring algal blooms in Lake Erie and other water bodies across the state.
“The directors know that there is no single solution to this problem,” says Elena Irwin, faculty director of the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State, which co-facilitated the meeting with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “I do believe, though, that they want to identify the most effective mix of strategies to manage this threat to public health both now and well into the future. This is a great opportunity for our faculty community to pull their collective knowledge together to help solve what may be the state’s most pressing environmental challenge.”
Ohio State faculty and researchers who gave presentations were:
- Michael Bisesi, environmental health sciences;
- Jake Boswell, landscape architecture;
- John Fulton, food, agricultural and biological engineering;
- Doug Jackson-Smith, environment and natural resources;
- Greg LaBarge, Ohio State Extension agriculture and natural resources;
- Stuart Ludsin, evolution, ecology and organismal biology;
- Jay Martin, food, agricultural and biological engineering;
- Audrey Sawyer, earth sciences;
- Linda Weavers, civil and environmental engineering and geodetic science;
- Aaron Wilson, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center;
- Robyn Wilson, environment and natural resources;
- and Chris Winslow, director of Ohio Sea Grant College Program.
Bisesi, Martin and Weavers are members of the Sustainability Institute Faculty Advisory Board. Martin and Weavers are faculty co-leads for the institute’s Healthy Land, Water and Air Systems program area.
The directors’ visit to the Columbus campus was an opportunity for Ohio’s key decision makers to hear directly from research experts what the current state of scientific understanding is and what data-driven solutions Ohio might employ to effectively address algal blooms and other water quality issues.
“The state’s algal bloom issues didn’t start overnight and won’t be solved in one meeting,” CFAES Dean Cathann Kress says. “This is a great start to developing a stronger, ongoing relationship between Ohio State’s research community and the state’s leadership in helping to answer our shared water sustainability questions.”