Wood County Ag-Energy Task Force. February 1, 2007
Testimony of Mr. Rick Wilson, Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water.
Co-Chairs Senator Gardner and Commissioner Brown and members of the Committee, I want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today representing the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Division of Surface Water. My name is Rick Wilson, and my job involves protecting Ohio’s Surface Waters, especially as it relates to nutrient management at agricultural operations, and specifically from animal feeding operations---of all sizes. My duties include documenting compliance with Clean Water Act Permits for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (a.k.a., CAFOs); investigating water pollution complaints associated with agricultural runoff of manure, other agricultural wastes or products. So in a general sense I document pollution events and the contributing variables to those events. With that information, we can work with governmental agencies, agricultural industry representatives, environmental stakeholders, and ordinary citizens in order to foster better understanding of the variables that contribute to surface water pollution as a consequence of handling animal manure. For the past 3 ½ years I have served as co-chair of the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA) –Animal Agriculture Task Force, a forum for Clean Water Act regulators (specifically working with CAFO permits) from around the nation to share experiences and research; and also discuss and contribute to the process of developing the Federal CAFO regulations. So in that role, I would offer that many issues Ohio has experienced relating to animal agriculture and water quality, other states --especially those in our region, are experiencing too.
Allow me to please raise three (3) key points that I hope will provide you with some basis and background regarding the environmental and water quality issues at hand associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Northwest Ohio, with special emphasis on dairies.Sheer Volume of generated raw, untreated, liquid manure and wastewater / Availability of cropland throughout the year is extremely limited. / Nutrient Impairment is widespread in Northwest Ohio Streams and Phosphorus loading to Western Basin of Lake Erie is on the rise.
Per Federal requirements, Large Dairies must contain all manures generated at the site. For example 1500 mature cows generates approximately 20 Million Gallons of raw manure annually. In addition, runoff of contaminated water from the production area adds 40% +/- (depending on annual rainfall) to the liquid volume that must be handled on an annual basis.
Compounding the issue is the hydraulic limitations of NW Ohio Soils. These limitations make it difficult to apply manure at higher rates without causing runoff. Soils must also be in condition to allow farming equipment onto the soil without damaging it. / Using a broad brush here: I offer that Livestock operations have largely become decoupled from cash crop grain agriculture over the past generation. Also, without treatment, manure cannot be applied onto a growing crop. (i.e., corn or beans).
This forces livestock managers (who’s focus is on the animals and their product) to place the bulk of their manure onto agricultural land in very limited periods (usually after harvest). In fact, this period is post harvest, when no crop is growing, and the nutrients are most prone to losses to the environment. This year, fields were not available until late November, and many have been forced due to capacity issues to apply manure from Dec.-Feb. / Based on recently presented information from Heidelberg College, there is sufficient evidence that phosphorus loading to Lake Erie’s western basin is increasing, despite efforts to increase conservation.
Nutrient impairment in Northwest Ohio watersheds is also well documented. In fact, nutrient reduction strategies must be developed as part of the Ohio EPA Total Maximum Daily Load program for these watersheds.
So, it is crucial for Ohio EPA to recognize, and offer feasible and implementable solutions to address the causes and sources of nutrient impairment. In that sense, bio-digestion of agricultural byproducts may be an important part.