Lake Erie: Phosphorus runoff still a problem 2012.05.09

Written by David Green.

Elected officials from Ohio, Michigan and Indiana met with federal agriculture and environmental officials last month to announce a new program aimed at reducing the amount of phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie.

The goal of the new initiative is to increase conservation practices on agricultural land that will lead to a decrease in runoff from fields. 

Farmers are encouraged to place fertilizer and manure below the soil surface, to plant buffers and filter strips along streams and ditches and to avoid the over-application of manure when phosphorus levels are already high.

The toxic organic sludge from blue-green algae has been a problem in the Western Lake Erie Basin for years, leading to a “dead zone” in the lake’s central basin where fish can’t live.

Agricultural runoff isn’t the only problem. Municipal sewage systems and yard fertilizer also contribute phosphorus to feed the algae, but it’s agricultural waste that’s at issue in the recent conservation measure.

Money is available for conservation efforts, but in some cases that’s not enough. We were recently informed by a resident who lives near Lake Hudson State Recreation Area that liquid manure is applied on hills that lead down to the water. A heavy application followed by rain sends additional phosphorus on a trip to Lake Erie.

Even though the Southern Michigan Dairies between Hudson and Morenci are now out of business, there are still millions of gallons of liquid waste in lagoons. Manure is being pumped to distant fields through long “draglines.”

Members of a local environment group observed draglines placed across Bean Creek and across a tributary last week. They later saw that an unattended line broke open and manure was observed in Toad Creek—a tributary to the Bean.

No matter how much federal money is available for good conservation efforts, it’s not going to do the job until some farming practices change. Lake Erie recovery isn’t likely with liquid manure still washing into streams.

  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks

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