Ohio House, Senate Approve Compromise Bill Tackling Lake Erie Algae

Columbus — The Ohio House moved compromise legislation March 25 aimed at addressing toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie and elsewhere in the state.

The final version of SB 1 is the result of negotiations between the House and Senate, with the Republican leaders of the two chambers calling it an important first step in tackling water quality issues.

“I think the compromise that has been reached will meet our goals … making sure that Ohioans have access to clean water, not green water,” Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) said during press conference at the Statehouse, hours before the March 25 sessions.

The vote in the House was a unanimous 96-0, followed shortly thereafter by a comparable Senate concurrence of 33-0, sending the legislation to Gov. John Kasich for his expected signature.

SB 1 would prohibit manure and fertilizer applications onto northwestern Ohio farm fields during soggy weather or freezing temperatures unless the nutrients are injected or incorporated into the soil within 24 hours or applied to growing crops. Farmers who ignore the restrictions could face fines.

Backers say the farm-related law changes will help bolster water quality while not overly burdening the state’s agricultural sector.

“Excessive use of chemical fertilizers or organic fertilizers is unacceptable,” Faber said. “And this bill will make meaningful changes into that process.”

Additionally, the legislation would require increased monitoring and testing of phosphorous levels at certain publicly owned treatment facilities and restrict the disposal of dredge material, among numerous other provisions.

Water quality issues took on a new significance last year, after the city of Toledo was left without drinking water over a weekend due to a toxic algal bloom.

Lawmakers have cautioned that SB 1 isn’t the final solution to algae. Other legislation already is being considered to further address blooms, including HB 101, sponsored by Rep. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg).

State officials also are hoping to convince other areas to adopt comparable legislation.

“Until we can get our friends in Indiana and Michigan and Canada to also address this in some of the same ways, we’re going to continue to have issues,” Faber said. “But certainly we’re trying to do our part ….”

Rep. Jim Buchy (R-Greenville) adding during the March 25 floor session, “While much of this legislation is focused on organic fertilizers… the fact is that the vast majority… of the phosphorus load that’s going into Lake Erie is coming from chemical phosphorus. It’s not coming from manure. … The point it, we all have a stake and we all have a responsibility in this….”

 

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