Ohio fines 3 over farm runoff linked to fish kills

Dayton Daily News - - LOCAL & STATE - By John Seewer

The oper­a­tors of TOLEDO — three agri­cul­ture busi­nesses have been told to pay more than $30,000 for three large fish kills that Ohio’s nat­u­ral re­sources depart­ment says were caused by live­stock ma­nure spread on fields.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors think am­mo­nia-laden ma­nure put onto the fields in north­west­ern Ohio ahead of rain­storms in Au­gust washed into creeks and caused the fish kills.

An Ohio law put in place to com­bat al­gae in Lake Erie pro­hibits farm­ers from putting ma­nure on fields be­fore heavy rains be­cause the ma­nure also con­tains phos­pho­rous that feeds al­gae.

State of­fi­cials say the ma­nure spills killed close to 67,000 fish — in­clud­ing min­nows and sun­fish — in creeks in Wil­liams, Allen and Hardin coun­ties. They say the big­gest spill killed 37,000 fish near Delphos in early Au­gust.

The Ohio Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources said it fin­ished its in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the fish kills and sent letters last week to three peo­ple it found re­spon­si­ble.

The fines were is­sued to Dan Wag­ner, of Ken­ton; David Young­peter, of Spencerville; and Mike Bockey, of Delphos. Mes­sages seek­ing com­ment were left with all three on Wed­nes­day.

The state said in the letters that it could seek higher penal­ties if the three par­ties chal­lenge the fines in court.

Of­fi­cials have said that the ma­nure spills did not cause any long-term dam­age in the creek and that fish had re­turned within weeks.

The fish kills again put a spot­light on ques­tions about how farm­ers are dis­pos­ing of ma­nure and the im­pact that has on wa­ter­ways, es­pe­cially in the Lake Erie re­gion.

Ohio, along with Michi­gan and the Cana­dian prov­ince of On­tario, have agreed to sharply re­duce the amount of phos­pho­rus from farm fer­til­iz­ers, live­stock ma­nure and sewage treat­ment plants that flows into the lake’s western end within the next 10 years.

But many en­vi­ron­men­tal groups ar­gue that the state needs stricter rules on dis­pos­ing ma­nure and that vol­un­tary ef­forts are not enough. Agri­cul­ture or­ga­ni­za­tions have been lead­ing ef­forts to ed­u­cate farm­ers about how to prop­erly use fer­til­izer and ma­nure.

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