Pardon the pun, but toxic algae has been a growing problem in Ohio. Significant issues with toxic algae have occurred in Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Marys and elsewhere. In fact, Ohio EPA recently added a new feature to their webpage in which you can track and identify toxic algae issues around the state:
On the website, you can now view the whole state and Ohio EPA will identify those waterways in which harmful algae blooms are currently a problem.
The website includes a list of current public health advisories.
The increased awareness and issues associated with toxic algae has triggered initiatives to tighten regulations in hopes of eliminating harmful blooms.
Senate Bill 150- Increased Authority to Regulate Nutrient Discharges from Farms
This summer the Kasich Administration introduced Senate Bill 150, which would provide increased regulatory authority to the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The bill would require farmers to develop "Nutrient Management Plans" that would help ensure best practices were utilized in application of fertilizer to reduce nutrient runoff.
The bill would also create a fertilizer applicator licensing program with certification and continuing education requirements. No person could apply fertilizer for agricultural purposes without being properly certified by the state.
The other components of the bill include expansion of the types of fertilizer regulated by the state (current regulatory authority is largely limited to manure). S.B. 150 would provide regulatory authority over commercially manufactured fertilizers.
Also, the bill would give regulatory agencies greater enforcement authority. For example, the Director of Agriculture could revoke a persons fertilizer certification if the failed to comply with the regulations.
Ohio EPA Nutrient Regulation
While S.B. 150 attempts to address nutrient run-off from so called "non-point sources" such as farm fields, Ohio EPA has proposed increased regulation to traditional point sources (i.e. wastewater treatment plants). This spring Ohio EPA released a proposal to target watersheds that may need to have nutrient permit discharge limits included in NPDES permits.
Under the proposal, waterways would go through a stream survey evaluation process. The following factors would be evaluated under the Agencies proposed "Trophic Index Criteria:"
- Dissolved oxygen;
- Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations;
- Algal biomass; and
- The biological community.
By evaluating these criteria, the Agency will assign the waterway a category of either "Impaired", "Threatened" or "Acceptable." Impaired waterways would likely see the imposition of nutrients discharge limits in future NPDES permits.
With increased awareness of toxic algae, it appears the state is moving quickly to try and increase regulation of nutrients. The state is at the early stages of increased regulation. New proposal are almost certainly forthcoming.