The cleanup of a popular but algae-fouled Ohio lake has angered some Indiana residents who argue a federally backed effort to truck livestock waste across state lines is only moving the problem to their region.
Eastern Indiana resident Allen Hutchison said the trucks filled with manure are worsening the air quality around his farm, which he said was already thick with ammonia and dust from a nearby dairy. He and other residents worry that runoff from the manure that’s applied to fields as fertilizer will harm nearby rivers and streams, just as it has tainted Ohio’s largest inland lake, Grand Lake St. Marys.
“Here comes another one,” Hutchison said recently as a truck loaded with poultry manure rumbled past his home, trailing dust. “You see what it’s doing to Grand Lake St. Marys? It’s going to do the same thing to our water before long.”
The 68-year-old Hutchison blames the biting odor for breathing problems that he and his wife experience. It’s convinced them to sell their 50-acre farm near Winchester, leaving behind the small white farmhouse where they have lived for 20 years and had planned to spend the rest of their retirement.
Ohio livestock farmers have for years sold their manure to Indiana crop farmers as a rich natural fertilizer that’s significantly cheaper than commercial fertilizers.
But that manure traffic began growing in July after Ohio offered livestock farmers a new incentive under a U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidy program that partially covers the cost of shipping manure out of the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed. Officials took the action after manure runoff from fields was largely blamed for causing the shallow, 13,000-acre lake to become tainted with toxic blue-green algae, making it virtually off-limits to recreation last summer.
Some environmentalists warn that Indiana’s existing problems with manure runoff will worsen if more manure is applied as fertilizer and is washed off fields by rain or snow.