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Topic Summary

Posted by: Bob Hesse
« on: 11/04/10, 19:35 »

I have hope also Eugene, i hope my hope isn't wishful thinking :-)
Posted by: Eugene Braig, Ohio Sea Grant
« on: 11/01/10, 09:01 »

Of course, Bob, what helped to change things when this came up that last time was legislation.  We brought in new law--like the Clean Water Act and Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement--to help us.  Also, much of what was fixed back then were point sources, specific polluters and effluent pipes that could be easily pointed to as a contributing source.  Non-point sources--contributing from across the landscape at large, like general agricultural practices applied to a region-wide landscape--are a lot trickier to manage.

It gives me hope knowing there are some good minds and dedicated people working on the issue.  If you haven't already, check out the final report by Ohio's Phosphorus Task Force:
Posted by: rod bender bob
« on: 10/28/10, 14:15 »

I agree Dave, I am not blaming only the farmers, but saying if we need to get moving. I realize the cost, but what is the cost if we go back to situation we had in the sixties? Isn't it amazing we did it in the 60s, now we need to do again and we have to decide if we can do it? LOL Guess we didn't pay much attention?
Posted by: Dave Kelch, Sea Grant Extension Specialist
« on: 10/25/10, 13:32 »

Understandably farm runoff has been identified as a major contributor to our Lake Erie phosphorous problem.  However, it's past time that waste-water treatment plants along out Lake Erie coast also be investigated by Ohio EPA.  Many of these systems are outdated and need to be brought up to compliance with current standards. 
In addition, local health departments in lake bordering counties need to investigate home septic systems and aeration fields to determine if they are functioning properly.  Their by-products also end up in Lake Erie.
Human waste, just like animal waste, contains high levels of phosphorous, which contributes to our harmful algae problem in Lake Erie. 

If new regulations and restrictions are placed on Ohio's farmers, some may not be able to maintain their farms unless they pass the cost along, and food prices will increase.
The same goes for waste water treatment facilities which may need to be brought up to standards of compliance; the cost will be passed along to the consumer.
Replacing an existing home septic or aeration system which is not functioning to standards can cost a home owner $10,000 to $15,000 or more.
Bottom line is that as consumers, we will all need to help bear the burden of reducing phosphorous inputs to Lake Erie--one way or another.

Dave Kelch, Sea Grant Extension Specialist, Ohio Sea Grant Extension
Posted by: Colleen Wellington
« on: 10/25/10, 06:35 »

It is true that there is nothing extraordinary about algal blooms subsiding as the water cools. Thank you for making that clarification. It is not a
Posted by: rod bender bob
« on: 10/24/10, 13:46 »

The fact that the algae is subsiding now because we headed into fall and it always gets better in colder water and colder weather is not  a "positive" sign.  A positive sign would be that we are actually doing something to stop solve the problem. No one is "blaming" the farmers for the whole problem but the fact is that a major source of the phosphorus is farm runoff. We have to address our inadequate wastewater treatment facilities and widespread use of fertilizers and other chemicals by homeowners, but we MUST also find ways to drastically reduce farm animal waste problems and runoff !!!!
Posted by: Colleen Wellington
« on: 10/21/10, 08:21 »

While I suspect the above comment is nothing more than a loosely disguised attempt at spam, it is certainly advantageous to have local support for protecting the Lake. However, I would be careful about placing the blame on farmers, who are often among the strongest proponents of preventing nutrient loss.

On a more positive note, it appears that the toxic algae blooms appear to be subsiding for now:

Here is a good resource for those who may be interested in reviewing the actual sampling data (microcystin levels) for specific locations throughout the year:
Posted by: mindya987
« on: 10/21/10, 06:43 »

These farmers need to be held accountable and they should definitely have to install a sewage treatment system for their waste management. We also need to get local business involved with monetary donations to preserve the lake and its eco system. I would bet if a little more effort were given many more local business would be willing to lend their assistance moving this project along. I first became aware or the lake issues through my moving comany who donnate to the lake.
Posted by: Ray Wise
« on: 07/30/10, 12:31 »

Celina, OH--Ohio Governor Ted Strickland today, joined by several state agency directors, announced both short- and long-term action plans to help restore Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio's largest inland lake.

The governor announced the State's latest efforts to assist the area from the Wright State University Lake Campus, and he and the directors emphasized the action plan can only be implemented thanks to the good partnerships the State has developed with the local community and the federal government.
"We know that our businesses and families have struggled with the loss of activity at the lake this summer. This crisis has been generations in the making, and it will take all of us working together to try to restore this lake to health and prosperity," Strickland said. "This action plan provides a clear direction forward, and I want to thank this community for working with us as we all search for ways to bring this lake back to health."

The State's action plan focuses on the two main issues negatively impacting the water quality of Grand Lake St. Marys -- internal and external loading. Grand Lake St. Marys contains an excessive amount of reactive phosphorus which is continually recycled (internal loading). Cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) absorb the phosphorus as they grow, which contributes to the growth (or blooms) of cyanobacteria. External loading is the continual addition of phosphorus to the lake from external sources in the watershed. Addressing both these issues is critical to efforts to restore the lake.

"Less than one month ago Director Logan and I visited the community and listened to the concerns of the local residents. We emphasized the State would not be idle, and today's release of the action plan represents our continued commitment to the community and the improvement of the lake," said Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski.
The action plan includes two kinds of in-lake treatment demonstration projects focused on the internal loading issue. The first, called "alum treatment," will be performed in a discrete area of the lake, approximately 20-40 acres in size. Ohio EPA will supply the necessary funding (approximately $250,000) to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources through the 319 subgrant program. The demonstration sites will be chosen during August 2010 with actual treatment targeted to begin in September 2010. Whole lake application will only be considered following the completion of the demonstration projects. Also, the plan recommends reviewing the current small-scale algae flipping pilot project currently underway to determine if a larger-scale project is possible. If feasible, the larger-scale project (approximately $25,000) will be funded by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

"The department understands the seriousness of this problem and stands ready to help the local community in any way possible," said Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Robert Boggs. "We are hopeful that the algae pilot project, funded by the department, will provide positive impacts to the region."

The action plan also includes many items focused on addressing the external loading issues. Action items include promoting improvements to manure hauling practices, limiting phosphorus discharges from Wastewater Treatment plans within the watershed, and educating local homeowners on septic systems and lawn management practices.

Also, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will seek legislative support for additional state regulatory authority which would restrict manure application during the winter and the requirement for farms with more than 350 tons of manure annually to develop a nutrient management plan.

"Grand Lake St. Marys is a shared resource with shared responsibilities for its health," said ODNR Director Sean Logan.  "We look forward to working with legislators, federal and local agencies, individual landowners, and citizen groups to implement these actions to improve the lake's water quality and the community's economic prospects."

Also included is a continued focus on protecting human health with weekly sampling by Ohio EPA and the posting of those results for the public. Also, Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health will request that the federal government develop national standards for the additional toxins which have been found in Grand Lake St. Marys, such as anatoxin-a, cylindrospermopsin and saxitoxin.

"These recommendations will go a long way in protecting the health of the public and in restoring a safe and healthy lake for families to enjoy for years to come," said ODH Director Alvin D. Jackson, M.D.

Grand Lake St. Marys straddles the Auglaize-Mercer County line and covers nearly 13,500 acres. Constructed in the mid-1800's to store water for the Miami-Erie Canal, the lake was established as one of the first state parks in 1949. Over the years, Great Lake St. Marys has been a popular recreational lake for boating, fishing and swimming. It is also the drinking water supply for the city of Celina, which has a population of approximately 10,000. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources maintains a campground, three public beaches and several picnic areas at a state park along the lake.

For additional information on the action plan, go to:

Posted by: Eugene Braig, Ohio Sea Grant
« on: 07/26/10, 06:34 »

Nice article, Ray.  Here's a link to the original: Bellefontaine Examiner.
Posted by: Ray Wise
« on: 07/24/10, 03:27 »

By Nancy Allen
What to do with the poo

GRAND LAKE - 20,600 beef and dairy cattle.
80,000 hogs.
168,000 turkeys.
3.75 million chickens.
629,504 tons of manure each year.
That's the Grand Lake Watershed.
How that manure is managed and where it ends up has taken center stage as nutrient-fed toxic algae blooms have plagued Grand Lake in recent weeks.
Officials trying to find a solution to the lake's algae issue agree it's a problem that has been years in the making.
Though there are many sources of nutrient loading to the lake, the biggest is runoff from farmland - 80 percent of the acreage in the watershed.
Terry Mescher, an agricultural engineer with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, was brought to the watershed in May to help farmers do their part toward a fix. He is one of four core team members giving farmers technical assistance and registering them for government programs that pay part of the costs to implement conservation practices.
The amount of livestock has tripled in Mercer County in the last 50 years, but there are no official stats on the increase in the watershed. Most of the livestock is in the southern portion of the county, as is most of the acreage in the watershed.

Poultry not the problem
Mescher said the biggest increase has been poultry, but their waste is not an issue. Ninety percent of the chicken and 75 percent of the turkey manure is exported out of the area by brokers. Brokering poultry litter from the watershed began about 10 years ago and has increased steadily.
"About two years ago, we estimated poultry farmers were exporting about 90,000 tons of poultry litter out of the watershed," he said.
Crop farmers want poultry manure because it costs less than commercial fertilizer and has a high nutrient content.
Dairy and hog manure generally is not sold or moved out of the watershed because it's cost prohibitive, Mescher said. Typically in liquid form, it is hard to handle and not economical to broker because it can contain up to 95 percent water. The liquid manure continues to pose the most challenges, he said.
Transporting liquid hog manure short distances (6 to 10 miles) can cost between 1.5 to 3 cents per gallon, which in many cases is more than the nutrients are worth, he said. Between 3,000 to 5,000 gallons is needed to fertilize an acre, Mescher added.
Even with poultry taken out of the equation, there still would be enough manure produced in the watershed to fertilize 46,000-48,000 acres - roughly the same number of crop acres in the watershed, Mescher said. That would be ideal if the land needed the nutrients, but it doesn't. Many fields - which have had decades of manure and commercial fertilizer application - already have phosphorous levels so high that no further application is recommended, he said.
Phosphorous, more than any other nutrient, does the most to promote the lake's blue-green algae growth, said Laura Walker, coordinator of the Grand Lake-Wabash Watershed Alliance.
Mescher said the best thing farmers can do to help the lake is move manure out of the watershed. The second best option - plant winter cover crops.

Cover crops, manure storage
Farmers typically spread manure after fall crops have been harvested and bare ground makes manure more prone to runoff. If cover crops are planted after harvest they can take up nutrients and lessen runoff.
Cover crops can be costly to plant and require close management. However experts say the benefits are increased soil structure and yields, if done correctly.
Emergency funding from the federal government became available this week and farmers can apply for a portion of $1 million in USDA money from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Priority will be given to applications requesting funds for transporting manure and planting winter cover crops.
More farmers also need to install manure storage structures, according to Mescher. They should allow for at least six months storage so manure can be spread when most environentaly appropriate, he said.
"If we can't store your manure properly, we can't manage it properly," Mescher said. "Fifty years ago the common way to manage it was you scraped it and hauled it every day. If you're doing that on frozen or snow-covered ground, that's not good."
It is legal for nonpermitted farms to spread in the winter, though it is not recommended.
"Our position is we would hope producers would have a crop rotation that they would have ground available for application in August, September and October," Mescher said.

Moving forward
Local ag officials say strides are being made. Record numbers have signed up for conservation practices, including the installation of grass waterways to slow down runoff, construction of manure storage facilities and the planting of cover crops.
Farmers have realized the gravity of what is going on in the watershed and are correcting problems and actively looking for help, Mescher said.
Mescher said his team is having difficulty keeping up with the high number of producers signing up for conservation funding at the Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District office. Funding for manure storage facilities is the top request.
In the past two years, $2.5 million in (EQIP) have come to the watershed for farmers. One million dollars was distributed last year. Another $1.5 million arrived in April and has been allocated. An additional $1.5 million in applications was received at that time but could not get funded, Hawk said.
While the farming community is taking action to stop current nutrient loading to the lake, not much can be done about the accumulation at the bottom of the 13,500-acre man-made body of water - aside from dredging it, experts say.
"Grand Lake was built (1837 to 1841) at a time when Mercer County was being developed and settled and sediment and nutrients in the bottom of the lake are the accumulation of not just years, but over a century of all types of runoff," Mescher said.
Watershed farmer Dave Rawers said farmers are anxious over the attention that's been directed at them and the watershed. He attended a meeting last week where farmers were told to "step up" or possibly face stricter ag regulations, including a ban on wintertime manure application.
"They're worried about the state outlawing that. Other states have laws against it already," Rawers. "That would be a concern for farmers here."
Rawers has used government funds to install a wetland to treat his milkhouse wastewater. He plans to build another to help absorb runoff from his manure yard.
Setting an example
The Lake Improvement Association in a letter to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland made numerous requests for action to help the lake, including prohibiting the expansion of existing livestock farms.
LIA President Tim Lovett said his group isn't against expansion, as long as it's done responsibly using best management practices that keep manure on farmland and out of the lake.
"We are at a point where we're way past the blame game. We know what the issues are, now we need to get results," he said.
Lovett said is aware of the strides farmers are making. He noted Grand Lake isn't the only watershed with these water quality issues. In the end, it's going to take multiple people and agencies working collaboratively to improve the lake, he said.
"If we can't get it right in this very small watershed, what are our hopes of getting it right in the Lake Erie and Mississippi watersheds. They are seeing the same things," he said. "We could become a positive example of what could be done when people address issues and produce results."
Posted by: Ray Wise
« on: 07/17/10, 08:39 »


Farm/Mega farm run-off from the whole Maumee watershed is getting as bad as the outta control pickle, tomatoe & you name it Sandusky river & bay watershed  ...I do believe St Marys lake out-flow goes to Ft Wayne & then down the Maumee ;-)  (Putnam county has a number of new mega-farms taking root w/off-shore owners from counties where those farm practices are a major no-no).
Most of the farmers already get massive subs from us taxpayers to do what???  -add more to the sh!t-load of 'krud they send downstream ...glad to see you speak up!!!
later Gator,
BTW ... here is a post I made a couple of dayz ago below--
Re(2): It's true that FAMILY farms were here before, but MEGA farms were NOT!
Posted on July 14, 2010 at 12:55:15 PM by Family

Ask the greedy for a buck Farmers who use St Marys lake as a holding s-tank and shove their farm crap on downstream from the farms.

The Feds and State should make each farmer pay-for and install sewage treatment outta their wallets for each polluting farm!!!
Posted by: Dave Kelch, Sea Grant Extension Specialist
« on: 07/15/10, 21:19 »

Rod Bender:

Fred's assessment of the algae issue is right on target.  The problem is far to much phosphorous runoff.  Certainly, outdated waste treatment plants, longoverdue for upgrading, along with failing rural septic aeration and septic systems, add to the problem as well.  All need to be addressed; especially the nonpoint runoff from agricultural practices.
As long as the phosphorous loading continues, we will continue to see algae problems.
Agreed, this is a problem that needs addressed ASAP-----along with the current Asian carp crisis and the lack of ballast water regulations to prevent new aquatic invasive species introduction.

So I guess it's pick your poison from the three above---------------all need immediate attention. 

You are right in your actions; email AND write your state and federal elected officials and demand action on all three concerns.  All are equally critical for the future of Lake Erie.

Dave Kelch, Ohio Sea Grant Extension Specialist
Posted by: rod bender bob
« on: 07/15/10, 12:53 »

Guess it's time to tell our politicians to get to work on this and we ARE NOT going to stand by like everyone did in the 60s and wait for what we know is going to happen. We need to identify the sources and put pressure on them no matter who they are. Cooperation stopped it in the 60s - 70s, why is it back. What phosphorus regulations have we relaxed? What political group has become powerful enough to start phosphorus pollution again? We need action, I've started with emails to the governor. I plan to correspond with every state and federal rep from Ohio.
Posted by: Fred Snyder, Ohio Sea Grant Extension
« on: 07/14/10, 12:40 »

Hello all,

I was preparing to send rod bender a reply to an email about algae, but since the topic's also on the board, maybe I can add 2 cents worth here --

The algae on Erie has the same cause as on Lake St. Marys (excessive phosphorus), but is mostly  different types - Microcystis on Erie and a combo mostly of Planktothrix and Anabaena with some Microcystis thrown in at St. Marys.  All release toxins when the cells die, so the problems are basically the same.  The proposal at St. Marys is to spread alum through the water to bind up the phosphorus and settle it to the bottom, much as alum is used to settle out clay at water treatment plants.  Then, hopefully, the algae would essentially run out of fertilizer and decline in abundance.

It might work, but there's no guarantee.  the phosphorus is still in the lake and  could be stirred up by wind or boating activity.  Also, over time, some phosphorus would likely be released from the sediment by chemical actions.  That's probably why they propose to re-treat every several years.  It's a gamble - not all lakes respond the same way to any particular treatment, but people at St. Marys are getting desperate for some kind of relief.

I think Eugene Braig also made a good observation --  This would lower the pH of St. Marys to some degree, making it more acidic, but how much?  Alum is used on azaleas and blueberry plants to make the soil acidic for them.  Depending on how much it changes, this could affect aquatic life and even release toxic metals from the sediments - it's all a matter of degree.

But for Lake Erie - no way we'll see alum treatments.  First, it would require another federal stimulus bill to pay for it, and then there are an awful lot of potential side effects.  Erie needs to stop receiving so much phosphorus from runoff, and so does St. Marys.