The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is reaching out to farmers for their help in protecting Lake Erie from phosphate runoff. The phosphate runoff increases the blue-green algae polluting the waters and choking off wildlife within lakes and tributaries in the Great Lake region.
In the 1970s, Lake Erie was declared a dead-zone following phosphates dumped into the lake from Detroit and other manufacturing areas along the shallowest of the Great Lakes. Michigan and Ohio worked together to reduce phosphates from manufacturing, reducing the amount of blue-green algae.
In 2002, officials noticed the phosphate levels rising once again.
The source? Chemical fertilizers that are running off into the rivers, springs, and lakes that feed into Lake Erie.
These chemical fertilizers are full of phosphates and nitrates, which help promote plant growth. The blue-green algae absorb the same chemicals, creating giant plumes that strip oxygen from the water.
Instead of enacting new legislation to reduce phosphate fertilizers or impose new regulations on farmers, Ohio has asked farmers to voluntarily join the effort to protect Lake Erie.
The Ohio Farmer's Union has agreed to some voluntary measures, including crop rotation, buffer plants between farms and water supplies, alternating fertilizers, and using less chemical fertilizer.
The goal of the program is to reduce phosphate accumulation in Lake Erie. If successful, the farmers will be able to continue without costly regulations from the legislature.