Manure Manager

Features Regional Regulations
Editorial: September-October 2010

A tale of two states


September 23, 2010
By Marg Land


Topics

Western Ohio has a problem.
Western Ohio has a problem.

Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio’s largest inland lake, is dying. Choked with blue-green algae and the toxins it produces, the 12,700-acre man-made lake has become so enriched with phosphates and nitrates, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) is recommending people have “no contact with the water, do not allow pets to contact the water and do not take boats onto the water.” Eating any fish caught from the lake is also a no-no.

In order to save the lake, which was originally constructed in the mid-1800s to store water for the Miami-Erie Canal, and is a source of drinking water for the city of Celina, the OEPA joined forces with Ohio’s Department of Health, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture. The group released an action plan aimed at improving water quality at Grand Lake St. Marys on July 30, 2010.

Under the plan, entitled, “Promote manure hauling practice improvements,” the group suggests that an effective way of reducing nutrients delivered to the lake is to reduce the amount of manure land applied in the watershed. Currently, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) is helping livestock producers transport manure outside of the watershed. But the program has experienced problems when farmers have attempted to ship manure into Indiana.
“Therefore, the state, through [the Ohio Department of Natural Resources], will request that USDA-NRCS establish greater flexibility under EQIP cost share to allow transportation of manure outside of the watershed, including to Indiana,” the report states.

This has raised the hackles of Ohio’s Indiana neighbors.

“We don’t need Ohio’s environmental problems,” states the headline of an editorial from the Aug. 31 issue of The Star Press, a newspaper based in Muncie, Ind.

“It’s unacceptable to shift an environmental catastrophe from one state to another in some kind of perverse shell game,” the editorial concludes. “Ohio needs to solve its own problem and not export it to us.”
It’s a sentiment shared by other Hoosiers.

“We have deep concerns,” Barbara Cox of Indiana CAFO Watch told the Fort Wayne, Ind., Journal Gazette. “If Ohio has a problem, the solution is not bringing it (manure) into Indiana watersheds.”

According to another report in The Star Press, there’s not a lot the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) can do about the issue.

“IDEM has no authority to dictate where the (Ohio) manure can go,” IDEM spokesperson Barry Sneed is quoted as stating. “If the manure goes to an Indiana CFO/CAFO, the receiving farm would still have to follow the manure management guidelines in their permit. If the manure goes to a farm that is not a CFO/CAFO, IDEM has no authority to govern it unless it is a threat to human health and the environment.”

What seems to be forgotten in this cross-state kerfuffle is that manure is not the only source contributing to the issues in Grand Lake St. Marys. Home septic systems, residential lawn fertilizer and commercial fertilizer applications to field crops also play a role in the lake’s diminishing health. But manure is always the bad guy, always the hot button topic.

I wonder what Indiana would be saying if Ohio had a surplus of lawn fertilizer to send their way.