Thursday, April 23, 2015

We All Play a Role in Agricultural Pollution Abatement

by Janell Weiss and Jared Coppess

Water quality has long been a concern, and recent events in Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Mary’s, Buckeye Lake and the Gulf of Mexico have brought that concern to the front of people’s minds. Earlier this month, the Governor signed Senate Bill 1 (SB1) which aims to mitigate harmful algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Amid new legislation and increased interest in and scrutiny of agriculture, the Darke Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) will release a series of monthly articles on agricultural topics. Be on the lookout for future columns from Darke SWCD staff on SB1, manure application setbacks, manure storage and stockpiling, cover crops and other related topics. All articles will be released to local media and available online at

Darke SWCD staff would like to engage the county in a conversation on environmental stewardship. This series of articles will provide farmers with information to help them protect water quality. Additionally non-farming community members can learn what farmers are doing and can do to protect water quality in our lakes, rivers and streams. This month’s article focuses on the role we all play in agricultural pollution abatement.

Darke SWCD staff encourages and welcomes the public to participate in the Ohio agricultural pollution abatement program. This program depends upon public participation. Darke SWCD has the authority and responsibility to investigate and seek the resolution of all complaints regarding agricultural or silvicultural pollution in the county. Please contact the Darke SWCD at 937-548-1752 if you see a manure spill, are concerned about an imminent manure spill, or have questions about the pollution abatement program.

When submitting a complaint, you may choose to provide your name or submit the complaint anonymously. Complaints may be submitted orally, over the phone, in person, or in writing. Darke SWCD staff will ask you to describe your concern, to provide location information, and to detail what waters of the state are impacted and any other information that may aid the investigation. If you choose to disclose your name and contact information, staff will ask what follow-up you would like to receive.

Darke SWCD investigates every agricultural pollution complaint received. During an investigation, Darke SWCD staff will attempt to determine if waters of the state are being degraded by manure or other agricultural wastes. If waters of the state are impacted, Darke SWCD staff will contact and coordinate with other government agencies that regulate pollution of surface water. The goal of Darke SWCD is to seek a voluntary, cooperative solution with the responsible party. Darke SWCD will recommend and work with producers to establish corrective actions, both temporary and permanent.

When a pollution complaint relates to a manure field application or stockpile, staff will review what agricultural best management practices (BMPs) were followed. These BMPs relate to field conditions and weather forecasts at the time of a manure application and manure application rates and setbacks. Agricultural producers, especially livestock producers, need to be familiar with the recommended BMPs. Please contact Darke SWCD if you need information on BMPs for handling manure.

The participation of the public in this program is crucial to its success. If you see a concern, contact Darke SWCD so staff can investigate the issue. Remember the choice of anonymity is available and will be honored, but it is your responsibility to request anonymity. Darke SWCD is committed to protecting the waters of the state, and part of that commitment is public outreach and education. Throughout this year, Darke SWCD will be releasing a series of timely articles related to agricultural and manure management BMPs.

One final thing to think about, if you see something that causes concern, please participate in the agricultural pollution abatement program by calling Darke SWCD at 937-548-1752 and giving the appropriate details. Let’s all commit to protecting and improving Ohio’s water quality.

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