This week, the Ohio Environmental Council released a report, authored by Adam Rissien, Director of Clean Water at the OEC, which delves into Ohio’s livestock industry, evaluating the vast quantities of manure it produces, and the implications for Lake Erie’s toxic algae problem.
Included in the report’s findings are numbers on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s permitted livestock operations, including the number of animals confined by each facility and the amount of manure they produce. Ohio has thousands of animal feeding operations, which, due to their size, are exempt from those rules altogether. Only 231 facilities across Ohio require a state permit, leaving the remainder without a requirement to register or file any reports with the state. Even homeowners with septic systems have to show maintenance records.
To illustrate the scope of the issue, the 231 permitted concentrated animal feeding facilities produce enough manure annually to fill the Horseshoe at Ohio State University 2.3 times over. With thousands of other livestock facilities operating without a permit in Ohio, the amount of manure produced annually across Ohio is astronomically higher. Further regulation is needed to protect the region’s waterways and Lake Erie from excess phosphorous contained in the manure.
With another forecasted “significant” algal bloom this summer in Lake Erie, the report includes recommendations to address a major cause of the continued algal bloom fears.
“The number one cause of toxic algae in Lake Erie is the overabundance of phosphorus coming from crop fields in the lake’s watershed,” said Rissien. “With manure applied excessively over 70 percent of the time, it’s clear more needs to be done to address this critical problem that puts water sources at risk.”
Some of the solutions offered in the report include establishing common sense regulatory safeguards, and improved reporting mechanisms. The report also asks lawmakers to have all livestock operations register with the state, and begin transitioning manure application away from excessive applications toward meeting the only the exact amount for crops to grow.
With the publication of this report, Kristy Meyer, Vice President of Policy at the Ohio Environmental Council hopes that legislators take the issue seriously.
“It’s clear that the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s permit program works,” said Meyer. “Regular inspections verify that most facilities follow the rules, but when we have thousands of operations across the state that aren’t subject to adequate oversight, we end up with a dangerous situation for Lake Erie and those who depend on it for drinking water.”