Nasty Algae On Shenandoah Leads To Lawsuit

ON THE SHENANDOAH RIVER, STRASBURG, Va (WUSA9) -- A lot of people in our area were horrified by the nasty algae bloom that cut off water supplies in Toledo, Ohio earlier this month.

It's no where near as bad, but algae has also plagued our historic Shenandoah River for years.

The Shenandoah Riverkeeper is now promising to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to force a cleanup.

The Clean Water Act's designed to make all our rivers fishable and swimmable. But environmentalists say huge summer blooms of algae in the Shenandoah River are making it tougher and tougher for people to enjoy it. "The algae is gross!" says Alexis Doman, 7, after wading in.

Mats of algae float on the surface. Long stands stream through the water. And locals say this year is actually much better than most. "In past summers, it's been so bad that there is really no point in fishing," says Thomas Bennett, before launching his kayak into the river for an afternoon of fly-fishing.

The EPA says programs to protect Chesapeake Bay are already cutting the flow of nutrients into the river. And it's studying right now whether it needs to do more.

But the Shenandoah Riverkeeper says the EPA is moving way too slowly. And it's filed a notice of intent to sue to force the agency to act "We're suing the EPA because they're failing to recognize it's a serious problem," says Alan Lehman.

If you go to Harpers Ferry, at the confluence of the two rivers, you can see the algae laden waters of the Shenandoah flow into the cleaner waters of the Potomac -- a river that everyone agrees needs cleaning up too.

Just as in Toledo, experts suspect it's manure and fertilizer from farm fields and other sources that's feeding the algae. Buffer zones and fencing to keep cattle out of the river could help. "Virginia has stepped up to cover all those financial constraints. So all we need now is cooperation from farmers," says Lehman.

Some farmers say they're already doing a lot. The lawsuit may force them to do even more.


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