Toledo grants Lake Erie same rights as US citizen in hopes of curbing giant, toxic algal blooms

Now those harmed by algae can sue on behalf of lake.
Updated: Mar. 5, 2019 at 6:24 PM EST
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TOLEDO, OH (WOIO) - It may be one of the oddest headlines you’ve read in a while. Voters in Toledo have granted Lake Erie the same legal rights as a human being.

It happened last week, as a reaction to the algal bloom issues of recent summers. While the headline sure sounds like a joke, what the law allows is for people to sue on behalf of the lake.

There are serious implications for farmers who’s pesticide run-off is one cause of the blooms, as well as companies that make the chemicals.

Attorney Jared Klebanow said “it has happened in Minnesota, it’s happened in California. It’s never happened in Ohio.”

Problems in Toledo with huge algal blooms even visible from space moved people to action. In recent summers they’ve had to use only bottled water because lake water was so polluted.

Voters had enough and gave a thumbs up to legislation that would allow anyone to sue polluters they believe have caused harm.

“What the citizens have done here is said we’re tired, it’s time to stand up and fight these entities, protect our lake and causing us as citizens not to have this clean drinking water,” said Klebanow.

The legislation is less than a week old and already the legal money-go-round has begun.

A farm group filed for an injunction to stop the law from taking effect, and then a 28-page lawsuit against the city. Are chemical companies next into the growing expensive fray?

"Time will tell who else will jump into the fight. Both sides have backers so you’re exactly right in stating other entities such as chemical companies and some of the larger farms will want to jump into this’ said Klebanow.

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