Last April, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a law designed to reduce the algal blooms that severely disrupted the drinking water supply in Lake Erie last year.
The Blade reports that Kasich signed the bill on the Lake Erie shore, a symbolic gesture which indicated the water crisis Ohio citizens faced last August, especially in Toledo. Toledo was hit the worst when dangerous levels of microcystis, a toxic cyanobacteria that produces algal blooms, were detected in nearby Lake Erie. More than 500,000 residents could not drink water from the city water supply, forcing them to rely on bottled water and donations.
Though the water crisis was eventually solved, the contamination spurred state officials into action. The new law received bipartisan support from the Republican governor and various state and local lawmakers from both parties.
The law bans spreading manure and other fertilizers that contain phosphorous and nitrogen on frozen, snow-covered, or saturated ground in the western Lake Erie watershed. Spreading manure is also not allowed if meteorologists predict a 50% chance of at least a half-inch of precipitation within 24 hours, or one inch over 12 hours for granular fertilizers.
Medium sized farms will have up to a year to comply with the law and small farms will have up to two. Farmers and owners of liquid fertilizer tanks who do not comply face up to $10,000 in fines, and possible hearings.
“This is a big step here, we’re going to try to avoid this runoff,” Kasich said. “It’s a reasonable bill, it’s a tough bill, and if you don’t cooperate we’re going to bang you over the head. And if you have legitimate problems and you’re a small-business person, we’re going to work with you to fix it. It is absolutely the right balance.”
The runoff the governor referred to was the fertilizer runoff in farms close to Lake Erie; these farms are believed to be the main sources of last year’s water crisis. If left unchecked, product residue can leave a film in nearby lakes, streams, and other sources of water.
In addition to the new law, above ground storage tank inspections are used to prevent such runoff. API 653 inspections performed routinely ensure that an above ground storage tank can safely operate and contain the fertilizer product.