Ohio State, Farmers, and EPA Take Steps to Reduce Algal Blooms

On April 2, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law legislation aimed at reducing nutrient runoff and thereby decreasing algal and cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie. The new law prohibits farmers from spreading manure when fields are frozen or saturated or when forecasts call for rain. The manure-spreading ban applies to weather forecasts of at least a 50%-chance of half an inch or more of precipitation over 24 hours, or for granular fertilizers, an inch of precipitation over 12 hours. The law also will eliminate within 5 years the dumping of dredged sediment into Lake Erie. Additionally, the law requires public water treatment plants handling more than 1 mgd to monitor for phosphorus monthly beginning Dec. 2016. While this law addresses the timing of fertilizer application, it does not address the amount applied.

Kasich signed the bill near Toledo, Ohio where, in August 2014, nearly half a million people lost access to drinking water due to cyanobacteria toxins known as microcystins. Since then, Ohio has set drinking and use thresholds for four cyanotoxins. While many states have recreational thresholds, Ohio joins only Minnesota and Oregon in developing drinking water thresholds for cyanotoxins. Additionally, in 2014, Ohio passed a law requiring farmers with 50 or more acres (approximately 20 ha) to attend fertilizer-certification training, which includes information on how to limit nutrient runoff to prevent negative impacts to waterways.

Additionally, on April 20, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation released a report detailing its efforts to ensure safe and healthy water for the state. The Water Quality Status Report provides a list of action items being taken by farmers, the Farm Bureau, and many collaborative partners to implement new farming techniques and best practices to protect water while farming productively.

Finally, on March 26, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also announced the award of 14 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants totaling more than $17 million. Funded projects will help prevent phosphorus runoff and soil erosion that contribute to algal blooms. Projects also will improve Great Lakes water quality by reducing suspended sediments in the lakes’ tributaries. Read more.

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