Manure spill damages stream

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CRESTON, Ohio – A manure spill on an Milton Township farm in northern Wayne County resulted in a damaged stream, loss of aquatic life and five miles of upset land owners.

According to Eric Ucker, state wildlife officer, the landowner was applying liquid manure through an irrigation system located on a knoll in the field April 27. The manure ran down both sides of the knoll into Steele Ditch as well as a stream that feeds into Steele Ditch.

The name of the landowner has not been released, pending further investigation, according to Ucker.

Duane Wood, program administrator with the Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District, said the land is not classified as highly erodible land, but it does have gently rolling slopes.

“They had a rye cover crop on the field, but instead of soaking into the soil, the manure ran down into the stream,” Ucker said. “Once the manure hit the stream, it removed all of the oxygen from the water. This smothered everything that needs to diffuse oxygen over a gill membrane.”

The result was the degradation of the entire system, Ucker said.

“I found dead fish as far away as 5 miles at the Chippewa Creek,” he said. “The whole system was wiped out.

“Providing we don’t have any additional discharge into this stream, it will take two to three years to correct itself.”

The Chippewa Creek ultimately flows into the Tuscarawas River.

Ucker said landowners downstream from the spill who depend on the stream as a source of water for their livestock have had to move their animals or haul water into the field for the livestock.

Landowner cooperating.

The landowner is cooperating with both the Division of Wildlife and the Wayne SWCD.

“We are working with the landowner to develop a manure management plan,” Wood said. “The landowner is looking at doing tillage work on the soil before applying manure or hiring someone to inject it into the soil to prevent this from happening again.”

Wood stressed the importance of having a manure management plan in place as part of an overall farm conservation plan. Manure management plans look at the number of livestock, the amount of manure produced, the nutrient content of the manure, the land base, soil tests, and crop yields to calculate nutrient removal rates.

“This serves as a precaution to prevent pollution from manure application,” Wood said. “If you are going to apply manure to your land, you need to be cognizant of what is happening in the application area.”

Wood added that farmers also need to calibrate their equipment to determine the application rate and amounts.

Charges pending.

Ucker will present the evidence to the prosecutor’s office where it will be reviewed to determine whether or not charges will be filed against the landowner.

“There is a strict liability on the part of the landowner to keep manure out of the stream,” Ucker said. “They are responsible, regardless of what happens. This is everybody’s water.”

Penalties include a $500 fine and 60 days in jail for first offenders, or in the case of a corporation, there is a $3,000 fine. If a producer is cited a second time, it is an escalated violation resulting in a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Corporations faced a $5,000 fine.

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