Ohio Governor Calls for Regulations on Farms to Combat Toxic Algae in Lake Erie

Back in July, Ohio’s governor took things up in notch in the mission to stop algae from enveloping major portions of Lake Erie. Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order to start the process of implementing regulations on thousands of local farms, as a way to tackle the problem of fertilizer and manure flowing into the streams and feeding toxic algae blooms in the lake.

During the summer months, the blooms turn the western portion of Lake Erie into a pea soup color. More than just an eyesore, this kills fish, taints drinking water, and causes beach closures. In fact, a 2014 outbreak resulted in contaminated tap water for more than 40,000 residents in the Toledo area, according to the Associated Press.

New Order Aims to Clean Up Lake Erie

To alleviate the situation, Kasich’s order proposes issuing “distressed watershed” designations for eight bodies of water in northwestern Ohio serving as the origin of large quantities of phosphorus-rich fertilizer and manure. Farmers in these designations would be forced to assess their property and make necessary changes — which could be costly.

The eight designated areas cover nearly 2 million acres. If the state’s soil and water commission approves the order, approximately 7,000 farms would be affected, according to the state’s agricultural department.

Farmers Fight Back

Roughly one week after Kasich signed the executive order to combat toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, a panel halted immediate action on it. The Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission agreed to dig deeper into the matter following pushback from farmers and some Republican lawmakers.

Farmers claim the executive order highlights an issue they’ve been trying to fix, but don’t completely understand yet. Before taking action, they want more research to be done to get to the root of the problem.

Cleveland’s News 5 interviewed the Stateler family in July, who operate Stateler Family Farms in McComb. The farm is one of three in the state already testing conservation systems and techniques to lower the amount of runoff that feeds algae and contaminates drinking water. The family is working to improve the water quality of the Great Lakes, and have been pleased with the results they’ve realized thus far.

They believe the executive order doesn’t take what’s already working for them into consideration. The family has requested a visit from the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission, before it implements Kasich’s order — something they told News 5 they’ve been trying to setup long before the order was in place.

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