Ohio Senate passes bill to protect Lake Erie after algae scare

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 18, 2015 7:13 PM

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The Ohio Senate passed a bill on Wednesday limiting when farmers in the state can fertilize their land in a move aimed at protecting Lake Erie from toxic algae blooms like the one that fouled drinking water in Toledo last summer.

Lawmakers in the Republican-led chamber unanimously passed legislation prohibiting farmers from applying fertilizer or manure when fields are frozen or saturated or if the weather forecast calls for heavy rain, defined as the likelihood of an inch of rain in a 12-hour period.

The state House of Representatives, also controlled by Republicans, is working on a similar bill.

Last August, about 400,000 Toledo residents were without drinkable water for two days after the discovery of a harmful algal bloom caused by high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous runoff because of heavy spring and summer rains.

Republican State Senator Randy Gardner called Lake Erie “Ohio’s jewel” and quoted Scripture when urging lawmakers to pass the bill.

"To whom much has been given, much is required," Gardner said.

The Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association supported the bill, saying applying fertilizer to frozen or snow-covered ground was not a recommended practice.

The bill also limits the dumping of dredged material from rivers and tributaries into Lake Erie and sets up monthly phosphorus monitoring at waste treatment plants.

The Senate bill would lapse in five years and was passed as an emergency measure that allows the measure to take effect immediately if it is approved by the House and Ohio Governor John Kasich signs it into law.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Peter Cooney)