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Lake Erie Algae

Should Lake Erie have the same rights as a person?

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WASHINGTON — Mother Nature is heading to the polls in a special election in Toledo, Ohio, on Tuesday.

Voters will decide whether Lake Erie, the fourth largest great lake, should have Bill of Rights protections.

The ‘Lake Erie Bill of Rights’ wouldn’t necessarily endow the body of water with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but it would grant the ecosystem certain legal protections.

The framework would also allow residents to enforce these rights under the rule of law.

If approved, the Bill of Rights would declare an immediate emergency to protect the lake and its watershed from destruction caused by climate change and the dumping of industrial waste.

In 2014, Toledo residents couldn’t drink their tap water for three days after agricultural runoff contaminated the lake.

Opponents say the protections would deter industrial groups from coming to the city. They say this could stall job growth in the region.

Toledo’s effort to grant legal protection to Lake Erie is part of a growing momentum in the U.S. Tamaqua Borough, Pa., a historic coal-mining region, was the first place to approve a similar ordinance in 2006. Other cities like Pittsburgh and Santa Monica, California, soon followed suit.

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