- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Lawmakers in the Ohio House and Senate on Wednesday approved legislation meant to improve water quality and reduce the toxic algae in Lake Erie. Key items in the bill:



Bans farmers in much of northwestern Ohio from putting livestock manure on fields when they are frozen or rain-soaked or when heavy rain is in the immediate forecast, and sets penalties of up to $10,000. Farmers could face a penalty for every day they are in violation - a stiffer measure than originally proposed. Small farmers can apply for a one- or two-year exemption from the ban if they submit a plan to show how they are making an attempt to comply. The exemptions were added to give small farmers more time to deal with the costs of storing or disposing of manure during winter months. The new rules on spreading manure on wet and frozen ground also will apply to companies that haul away manure from large livestock farms.



Stops the dumping of sediment dredged from Ohio’s harbors and rivers into Lake Erie within the next five years. Ohio’s environmental regulators for decades have wanted to stop the dumping over concerns about how the sediment affects fish and water quality. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees the dredging and has maintained that dumping sediment that isn’t polluted is safe and less costly. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps have started working together on finding new ways to get rid of the tons of silt that is dredged primarily from the harbors in Toledo and Cleveland.



Requires testing for phosphorus levels at the state’s large wastewater treatment plants beginning next year. Phosphorus that flows into the lake from farm fertilizers, livestock manure, sewage treatment plants and leaking septic tanks feeds the algae blooms. The measure also creates a new state coordinator to oversee monitoring, treating and testing of algae and work with wastewater plants, and it allows the state to tap into money for testing of fields and waterways for pollutants and ways to reduce farm runoff.

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