The annual Lake Erie Algae Forecast announced last Thursday by NOAA and its partners spotlighted the need to cut back on the amount of livestock manure being placed on northwest Ohio farm fields by livestock producers, said Executive Director Sandy Bihn of the Lake Erie Waterkeepers, a long-time advocate for the Lake Erie environment.
With torrential spring rains and high water preventing farmers from planting field crops, such as corn and soybeans, far less dry fertilizer was applied to the fields. That should have meant less phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie, and a smaller harmful algal bloom (HAB) than the forecasted 7.5 on a scale of 10.
“But instead, phosphorus numbers out of the Maumee were high,” said Bihn in a press release. “The manure is being applied to fields (because) they have to get rid of it whether there are crops or not.
“A recent report by the Environmental Working Group for the Maumee River shows that the number of confined animal operations (pigs, cows, poultry) in the Maumee watershed increased from 545 in 2005 to 775 in 2018. The number of animals is the Maumee watershed is estimated to have increased from 9 million in 2005 to 20.4 million in 2018.”
The estimated amount of manure produced by the animals in the Maumee watershed increased from 3.9 million tons per year ion 2005 to 5.5 million tons in 2018, reported Bihn. The estimated phosphorus increased from 6,348 tons per year to 10,310 tons per year.
“Harmful algae in Lake Erie will not be reduced with the continuing growth of the number of animals, the amount of manure and the addition of more manure/phosphorus in the Maumee and other western Lake Erie watershed — the Sandusky, Portage and Raisin,” said Bihn.
Lake Erie Waterkeeper will host a Lake Erie Conference Call discussing Lake Erie on Sunday, July 28 at 8 p.m. For details, visit lakeeriewaterkeeper.org