Editorial: No more manure madness in Ohio


Gov. Mike DeWine proudly posed Wednesday for Ohio Tourism Day photo opps, highlighting the Lake Erie shoreline’s contributions to the state’s $46 billion a year tourist industry.

“There’s no part of the state really where tourism has more of an economic impact than it does in our north coast,” the governor said.

It was wise for Mr. DeWine to visit in the spring because in just a few months that same lake will be carpeted in the annual putrid green algae blooms that threaten that lucrative tourism industry — not to mention the source of drinking water for millions of people, the property values and economic development prospects of our region, and our quality of life.

Because just as Governor DeWine was touting beautiful Lake Erie’s role in our state’s tourism economy, his administration is considering permits for 10 new concentrated animal feeding operations that are destined to contribute untold tons of algae-feeding phosphorus to rivers and streams that empty out into that lake.

Adding new CAFOs is like building new cities without any sewage processing plants. The term only applies to farms that have at least 700 mature dairy cows, 2,500 swine that weigh more than 55 pounds, 1,000 beef cattle, or 82,000 laying hens.

The DeWine administration is not only hyping the value of tourism while it lets the lake drown in algae. The state also has pumped more than $2 billion into H2Ohio, the governor’s program to fund voluntary pollution-mitigation efforts that he hopes will reduce the amount of phosphorus running off fields and into the lake.

But we already know that no amount of voluntary measures — well funded and necessary as they may be — are enough to save the lake. …

There is some dispute about the data, but some environmental activists believe western Lake Erie basin’s nearly 150 CAFOS produce the manure equivalent of sewage generated by the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago. Adding more without the regulations that would guarantee safe disposal of all that manure is madness.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture claims its hands are tied when it comes to approving permits for CAFOs that meet all the regulatory requirements — none of which have anything to do with how they contribute to Lake Erie’s algae-feeding pollution. How convenient.

We have seen during this pandemic that the governor is willing to use his broad executive authority for the public good when an issue really matters to him. This should matter. The governor must call for a moratorium on more CAFOs until a TMDL is established.

No new factory farms should be permitted to open and begin adding to the pollution that fouls the lake each year until Ohio has a sane and scientific strategy to finally address what ails Lake Erie. Promoting the beauty and the economic impact of Lake Erie while letting more and more factory farms foul it in the meantime is insane.

— Toledo Blade, May 11