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Ohio Restricts Fertilizer Use to Protect Lake Erie

Ohio-State lawmakers have come up with important new rules designed to decrease the phosphorus runoff that promotes toxic Lake Erie algal blooms including limitations on when Ohio farmers could use fertilizers or manure. The suggested legislation, if passed, would become Ohio’s most powerful response so far to curb Lake Erie algal blooms, which led the state to forbid drinking water for three days during this year’s summer.

The blooms have been thriving in Lake Erie thanks to their ability to feast on phosphorus deposited into the lake from dredging. Phosphorus was subsequently washed away into tributary rivers from farms and wastewater treatment plants. It is not yet clear whether the new proposals will be sufficient to pass the Ohio General Assembly before the legislative session is over in December. According to the Dave Hall, a Holmes County Republican heading the committee, the new rules would be a “good start”, though he added that it will be both expensive and time-consuming.

The proposed rules touch upon fertilizer ban, dredging, and water treatment plants. In essence, Western Basin farmers would be prohibited from applying fertilizer or manure to their land when it is saturated with rain, covered with snow, or frozen. The ban would be the first such a prohibition in the state of Ohio, and if violated, farmers would be fined with a fine of up to $10,000.

The ban generally includes fertilizer, manure injected into the soil that’s composed of potash or gypsum. Moreover, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency would also have to give its green light to all dumping of dredging materials into Lake Erie beginning in mid-2020. The new rules would also require major public water treatment plants to commence testing for phosphorus on a monthly basis starting in December next year.

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