Ohio voters passed groundbreaking legislation that allows citizens to sue on behalf of the lake when it’s being polluted.
An Ohio resident collects water from Lake Erie in 2014 after a ban due to algae-related toxins.Getty Images
It started in a pub. A handful of people, hunched over beers in Toledo, Ohio, were talking about a water crisis that had plagued the city in 2014. The pollution of Lake Erie had gotten so bad that it had taken a serious toll on their lives. The government, they felt, wasn’t doing enough to protect the lake. And so they wondered: What if the lake could protect itself?
The idea they hatched that night ultimately resulted in a special election, which had the citizens of Toledo voting Tuesday on a very unusual question: Should Lake Erie be granted the legal rights normally reserved for a person?
The measure passed easily, which means citizens will be able to sue on behalf of the lake whenever its right to flourish is being contravened — that is, whenever it’s in danger of major environmental harm. MORE