Lake Erie water

The opaque, slime-green water found in Toledo last weekend should be a wake-up call to residents in Ohio and across the country about the need to protect our natural resources.

The poisonous algae blooms that made water undrinkable -- even untouchable -- for nearly half a million Americans weren't an act of God, or a one-time fluke. They've become common in lakes across Ohio and around the country due to fertilizer and sewage runoff. Algae blooms are less likely to occur in the Ohio River because the river water moves quickly, and Greater Cincinnati Water Works -- which handles water treatment for communities from Warren County to Northern Kentucky -- is capable of filtering the toxins that fouled Lake Erie water. But the Ohio River still experiences occasional algae blooms, and excess nutrients from the Ohio eventually make their way into the Gulf of Mexico, where they help cause "dead zones" that can't support aquatic life.

Failure to act to improve water quality threatens public health; the toxins in Lake Erie water have made Ohioans sick and killed pets in other incidents. But fixing this problem should also be an economic priority.

There are solutions to this problem that require international and federal actions, but there are plenty of others that require action closer to home, from the Ohio General Assembly and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, to the decisions homeowners and business owners make every day.

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Inmate death

The death of an inmate in May -- and the subsequent resignations of five corrections officers for doctoring logs at the Licking County Justice Center -- illustrates the many challenges of running a jail.

Imagine for a moment that it was your job to ensure the safety of the community by keeping people who were arrested, are awaiting trial and are sentenced to jail behind bars, while also protecting criminals from themselves and preventing them from harming each other. Don't forget the myriad of addiction, mental health and other problems most inmates carry into the jail, especially during the current heroin and methamphetamine crises. For many, it's the worst time of their lives -- a moment when their desperation is at an all-time high.

Following the May suicide and other unsuccessful attempts, the sheriff's management team discovered corrections officers were not making their required rounds every 30 minutes, including looking through windows to make sure inmates were safe. Five were accused of faking logs showing that checks were made; they were allowed to resign instead of being fired.

Sadly, this is not a new issue. The sheriff's office is facing a $10 million lawsuit in federal court, filed by the family of an inmate who committed suicide in 2011 by jumping over a jail railing. There's now a netting system in place to stop others.

Critics can suggest the sheriff has not done enough to deter suicides, but it's also true personal responsibility must be discussed. People don't land in jail without making a series of bad choices, usually involving alcohol and drugs to some degree. At some point, they have to take responsibility for living well and staying alive.

But given what's happened this year, we ask ... if more should be done. A third mental health worker? New supervision policies? Improved pay for guards?

Even one death is too many.

The Advocate

Newark, Ohio

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