Councilman Polensek's Letter to Senator Portman concerning Water Quality

Dear Senator Portman:

As Councilman representing Cleveland’s 8th Ward I am writing to you on behalf of my constituents and the people of Cleveland in regards to the ongoing Lake Erie water quality issue on the northeast side of the City of Cleveland.

Yesterday was Labor Day, a national holiday and the traditional end of summer, when countless numbers of families come together to celebrate the greatness of the American worker. In our own community families flock to the lakefront to picnic and to, hopefully, enjoy the lake.

However, over this magnificent weekend, families and their children were not allowed to swim at Euclid Beach and Villa Angela Beach MetroParks, because of the high levels of ecoli.  It hasn’t rained now for well over a week and the water in Euclid Creek itself is “as clear as drinking water.”  I live on the Creek and can attest to that on a daily basis.  Something is terribly wrong in America when families cannot enjoy the amenities of the lake except “at their own risk” in 2015.

The Great Lakes account for 80% of the fresh water in the United States, so I am told. Yet, the waters off the shores of Cleveland have extremely high levels of ecoli. Now, the waters in the western basin of the lake are being contaminated with deadly blue-green algae, which, as we all know, recently affected the water quality for the City of Toledo and surrounding areas.

Getting back to the northeast side, residents, community activists and this Councilman are demanding answers. There has been no rain and no storms and yet the quality of our lake water is hazardous to one’s personal health and that of

their families. Having represented this lakefront community for many years, I have heard all the alleged suspects from illegal discharges from surrounding suburbs, illegal sanitary tie-ins to Euclid Creek, illegal storm discharges, industrial waste, inadequate sanitary sewers, and the best yet, “excessive bird fecal matter” from too many geese along the lakefront and in Euclid Creek.

This is not cutting it any longer in the community or with this councilman. Therefore, I am OFFICIALLY requesting, through your office that a Federal investigation be taken by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to find out, once and for all, as to what is causing this contamination to happen in our community.  This is America, not a third-world nation. We should be able to use Lake Erie for our recreation and entertainment without fear of becoming seriously ill or worse.

If it is illegal tie-ins, dye testing in the Euclid Creek watershed should be able to determine this. If it is other illegal tie-ins or discharges, then a thorough investigation in partnership with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) should be able to determine the culprit locations.  If it is truly the geese, then let’s figure out what to do with them in a humane manner.

In closing, this should be a national embarrassment and outrage as to what is happening and should be a wakeup call.  I am outraged but I don’t regulate the Ohio EPA or the US EPA. The Federal Government does. The US EPA needs to protect our eco-systems and especially our fresh water. Quite frankly, I don’t believe they are doing either.

I am personally appealing to you with the hope that you can understand the injustice here. Euclid Beach and Villa Angela Beach of the Cleveland MetroParks system are the only swimming beaches on the entire east side of the City of Cleveland. Our folks don’t belong to country clubs and for the most part cannot afford to take their kids to the high-end water parks, ie Sandusky or elsewhere. They take their children to the city pools when open or put a sprinkler on in their yard; many don’t even do that anymore for fear of increasing their already high water bills. The lakefront is their real watering hole; just as it was when I was a child. In fact, Lake Erie is our State’s greatest natural resource.

Please help us get to the bottom of this, once and for all.  Then, let’s figure out how to fix the problem. There is nothing more precious than fresh water, and I fear we are leaving a terrible legacy to our children and grandchildren if we do not address this water quality issue in Lake Erie. Furthermore, the economic impact on the State of Ohio, by not addressing this water quality issue, could be devastating to our fishing and tourism industry. It is already happening.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter. I may be reached in the office at (216) 664-4236 or via email at

Sincerely yours,                                                                              

Michael D. Polensek

Councilman, Ward 8

Read More on Councilman Update
Volume 7, Issue 10, Posted 5:41 PM, 10.12.2015