Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill into law that is intended to protect the water quality of Lake Erie and other waters of Ohio. The legislation to require changes in operations that could pollute the lake came about because of the algae bloom that shut off the Toledo water supply last summer and which received national attention.

In a two-paragraph announcement of signing the legislation, the governor’s office only listed three bullet point highlights of the bill:

  • Restricting open lake disposal of dredge material.
  • Additional phosphorus monitoring at wastewater treatment facilities.
  • Clear penalties for those who violate the law.

What wasn’t mentioned is impact on agriculture. A ban on manure and fertilizer application to frozen, snow-covered or saturated ground in the western Lake Erie basin is included in the legislation. High levels of phosphorus in the lake on occasion have promoted the growth of algae and resulting microcystin toxin. Of course, phosphorus fertilizer and manure runoff are potential contributors to the phosphorus level in the water.

The farm nutrient application rules are the first for a region of Ohio and wouldn’t be a surprise if they were expanded to include the whole state in the future. Concern by farmers is that unexpected weather events can still cause runoff for which they will be blamed.

Sen. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), quoted by Chris Kick in reporting for Farm and Dairy, said, “We know it’s (the bill) another step in the right direction, we know it’s meaningful, but until you tell me what the temperatures are, what the wind direction is, what the rainfall events are, it’s impossible to know just what kind of impact this may have on the lake. Those are just fact-of-life issues that agriculture and all of us confront every year.”

Some further restrictions on fertilizer and manure surface application are included in the bill. There is a restriction on surface applying fertilizer in a granular form when the local weather forecast is greater than a 50 percent chance of precipitation exceeding one inch in a 12-hour period. The ban of manure application is when a 50 percent chance of precipitation exceeding one-half inch in 24 hours is forecast. Some approved application exceptions for injection of fertilizer or manure and incorporating fertilizer are included in the bill.

The legislation also will establish a coordinator for the Office of Harmful Algae Management and Response, according to Ohio news outlets. There are stipulations for civil penalties against persons who violate actions prohibited in the bill.