Lake Erie Algae (ErieStat)

Pennsylvania’s Phosphorus Control Strategies


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Binational Strategy

Pennsylvania Implementation Details

Reduce phosphorus loading from agricultural sources

In preparing Pennsylvania’s Domestic Action Plan, the eight named tributaries and six small direct discharge areas that contribute runoff to Lake Erie’s central basin were examined. Nonpoint sources were found to be a minor source of phosphorus. However, opportunities to improve nutrient and sediment management at farms within Pennsylvania’s portion of the Lake Erie basin do exist. A continued partnership with the Erie County Conservation District supports the PA VineES program or PA Vested in Environmental Sustainability program. The work focuses conservation efforts on the approximately 10,000 acres of vineyards in the region.

Reduce phosphorus loadings from municipal sources

There are roughly 270 permitted point sources in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Lake Erie basin, with approximately 230 of those being discharges from privately-owned wastewater systems. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is working to provide greater assurance of the state’s phosphorus loading estimations by evaluating the quantity and quality of data sources, cataloging sources by tributary, assessing the applicability of data, identifying gaps, and subsequently reporting on data needs. Meanwhile, the state is working with partners at the Erie County Department of Health to increase compliance rates at small flow treatment facilities. From 2016 to 2018, compliance rates increased from 75% to 93%.

Support watershed-based planning and restoration efforts

Through its Municipal Stormwater Assistance Program, the Erie County Department of Planning has worked to digitize its municipal separate storm sewer infrastructure and create a mobile platform for municipal workers to provide updates. Worker training and public outreach help to expand local knowledge on methods to protect stormwater assets and improve water quality.


In addition to County-led efforts, PA-DEP maintains an active Coastal Resources Management Program includes work to monitor Lake Erie bluff recession, which can contribute sediment and nutrients to the lake.

Coordinate science, research, and monitoring

Pennsylvania is working with U.S. EPA and the state of Ohio to assess how Lake Erie, as a dynamic natural system, is responding to government efforts to reduce phosphorus contributions to the lake and improve hypoxic conditions during the summer months. This includes PA-DEP’s efforts to evaluate existing water quality data and identify opportunities for improved information on the role of Pennsylvania watersheds in contributing phosphorus to Lake Erie.

Enhance communication and outreach

PA-DEP staff will continue to work with the Great Lakes Commission to annually update this content.