OREGON, Ohio — Ohio Gov. John Kasich cast his approval of the state’s new water quality and nutrient law, which he signed April 2 at Maumee Bay State Park — located just a few miles east of where a toxic algae bloom prompted a two-day drinking water ban eight months ago.
The new law is known as amended S.B. 1, and reflects months of discussion and unanimous consent in the House and Senate to limit certain winter application of fertilizer and manure, and to crack down on open lake dredging, as well as sewage handling and water treatment plant discharge.
Farm and Dairy watched the signing via The Ohio Channel
Kasich praised lawmakers for their “complete and total commitment to the lake,” as well as farmers and environmental groups for making a unanimous decision that will help improve Lake Erie.
“This place is getting better,” he said. “I’m not telling you that all of the problems are fixed or that there’s not going to be another algae crisis … but there is a deep commitment to this lake and it’s going to take time.”
The law generally prohibits farmers in the western Lake Erie basin from applying manure and chemical fertilizer when the ground is frozen, snow-covered, or saturated with precipitation.
Farmers in that basin are also prohibited from applying nutrients when rain is likely. Fertilizer is not to be applied when there’s greater than a 50 percent chance of rain exceeding one inch, within 12 hours; and manure is not to be applied when the chance of rain is greater than 50 percent and more than a half-inch, within 24 hours.
Farmers have some exceptions they can use, such as injecting the fertilizer or manure into the ground, incorporating the nutrients within 24-hours of surface application, or applying the nutrients to a growing crop.
Violations are punishable by civil penalties up to $10,000, but farmers must first be afforded the opportunity for an adjudication hearing.
The new law has received broad support from most of Ohio’s agriculture organizations, which said it balances the need for clean water, with the need for farmers to still be productive.
Farmers in the western basin will likely incur some additional costs related to manure storage, which some say could range from $1,000-$1,400 per cow, if additional storage is to be built.
Some Ohio lawmakers are currently looking at ways to incentivize farmers who make investments in these kinds of structures, such as potential tax breaks or conservation funding — to help offset the cost.
The bill also allows farmers of small and medium operations to apply for a one-two-year extension on the manure prohibition, if they request more time to come into compliance.
Dredging and water treatment
The law does not target agriculture alone. It also includes a ban on open-lake dredging disposal beginning July 1, 2020.
It also requires publicly owned water treatment plants with a design flow of 1 million gallons per day or more to begin monthly monitoring of total and dissolved phosphorus, by Dec. 1, 2016.
Additionally, the law allows the director of the Ohio EPA to prohibit and restrict certain sewage discharges into state waters, and it requires that sludge, like agricultural nutrients, not be applied to frozen ground.
Kasich said there are some places in Ohio where the septic systems are 100 percent failing and need upgraded. He said he understands that can be expensive, and said the state is working on what it can do to make the process more affordable.
But at the same time, “the state of Ohio can’t buy everybody a septic system.”
• Prohibits, with certain exceptions, the application of fertilizer and the application of manure in the western basin of Lake Erie on frozen ground, saturated soil, and during certain weather conditions.
• States that the prohibitions do not affect any restrictions established in the Concentrated Animal Feeding Facilities Law or otherwise apply to those entities or facilities that are permitted as concentrated animal feeding facilities under that Law.
• Exempts a person in the western basin of Lake Erie from the prohibitions if the person applies fertilizer or manure, as applicable, under specified circumstances, including injecting the fertilizer or manure into the ground and incorporating the fertilizer within 48 hours, or manure within 24 hours of surface application.
• Prohibits any person in the western basin from surface applying fertilizer in a granular form when the local weather forecast for the application area contains greater than a 50 percent chance of
precipitation exceeding one inch in a 12-hour period.
• Prohibits manure application when the local weather forecast for the application area contains greater than a 50 percent chance of precipitation exceeding ½ inch in a 24-hour period.
• Prohibits a person from applying agricultural manure obtained from a concentrated animal feeding facility, unless the person has been issued a livestock manager certification, or been certified by the director of agriculture.
• Authorizes the director of agriculture or the director’s designee or the chief of the Division of Soil and Water Resources in the Department of Natural Resources, or the Chief’s designee to investigate complaints filed against a person who violates one of the prohibitions, including applying for a search warrant.
• Authorizes the director or chief to assess a civil penalty against a person who violates one of the prohibitions only if the person is afforded an opportunity for an adjudication hearing.
• Requires the amount of the civil penalty to be determined in rules, but prohibits the penalty from being more than $10,000.
• Transfers the administration and enforcement of the Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture must be enacted not later than July 1, 2015.
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