Back in 2014, 500,000 citizens in and around Toledo, Ohio, were forced to turn off their water for three days because of toxic algae in Lake Erie.
Since then, Toledo residents have decided to fight back. They partnered with a group called the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and came up with a Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR).
The Bill of Rights referendum passed with 61% approval in a special election and is now part of Toledo’s City Charter. The bill states that Lake Erie has the right to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.”
In a press release, Markie Miller of Toledoans for Safe Water said, “We’ve been using the same laws for decades to try and protect Lake Erie. They’re clearly not working. Beginning today, with this historic vote, the people of Toledo and our allies are ushering in a new era of environmental rights by securing the rights of the Great Lake Erie.”
Under the new legislation, Lake Erie now has legal rights, which means citizens are allowed to bring legal suits against polluters if they feel the lake is being harmed. Other places around the world have been protected with legal rights as well, including the Whanganui River in New Zealand and the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in India, although the Indian rivers’ rights were later overturned in courts.
The law is already being challenged in court by Drewes Farm Partnership as being unconstitutional. They argued that farms “can never guarantee that all runoff will be prevented from entering the Lake Erie watershed.”
It will be interesting to see whether the law survives or not and how other areas affected by pollution will respond. Cause lets be real – we are not being good stewards of the Earth.