Scientist sees 'collision course' with
agricultural manure issue
By Tom Henry
Published April 3rd, 2005
BOWLING GREEN - Great Lakes research was the dominant
theme of the Ohio Academy of Science's 114th annual meeting
at Bowling Green State University yesterday, generating
a familiar A-to-Z discussion of issues ranging from algae
to zebra mussels.
But it was an old agricultural problem that captivated
listeners for almost three hours: cow manure.
Cow manure has become an emotional and complex problem,
given the growing number of large dairy farms in Ohio
and Michigan, officials said.
Speakers noted that it's not the same problem that some
of our grandparents had on their cow pastures, at least
in terms of volume.
Much of today's manure is produced in concentrated animal
feeding operations, some of which have herds numbering
Leading the boom in Ohio and Michigan are Dutch companies
squeezed out of Holland while up against strict land-use
laws, officials said.
Just recently, soil and water testing began five miles
east of Portage, Ohio, which could result in Wood County's
fourth major dairy farm.
Concentrated animal feeding operations are regulated.
But researchers and environmental activists question
how much manure flows off those facilities after heavy
rains and pollutes nearby streams or groundwater.
The Great Lakes and other bodies of water are affected.
"The truth is, there are no accidents. It's all
management. In Ohio, we don't have good management,"
said Julie Weatherington-Rice, a senior scientist for
a Columbus firm and an adjunct assistant professor at
Ohio State University.
She said the state is "heading for a collision course"
on the issue.
James Hoorman, OSU extension agent in Kenton, Ohio, said
dairy manure is especially troublesome: It is up to 98
Because it is fluid, it flows quickly through cracks
and crevices in the land, he said.
Forty percent of dairy farms exempt from concentrated
feeding regulations have voluntarily developed manure
But only 25 percent of those follow their plan, he said.
The CAFO discussion was the focus of a separate symposium.
Kevin Elder, executive director of the state agriculture
department's livestock environmental permitting program,
said Ohio has fewer than a third of the farms it did in
1910, and that some of them have 10 times the livestock
of a century ago.
There is no limit to the number of CAFOs that can obtain
permits. But they must have sufficient acreage and environmentally
sound plans for dealing with manure, Mr. Elder said.
He and other speakers said the impact of mega farms is
a rising concern, but that there are other pollution sources,
such as raw sewage overflows.
Toledo is spending $450 million to address its sewage
overflows and settle U.S. EPA violations.
Other runoff sources include faulty septic tanks, goose
droppings, and farm fertilizers.
"The largest loads going out to Lake Erie are not
manure, but chemical fertilizers," Mr. Elder said.
Yesterday's keynote address was by Roy Stein, an OSU
researcher recognized as one of the world's experts in
He said small invasive fish from Europe called round
gobies have driven a higher level of cancer-causing PCBs
up the human food chain.
Gobies pass along PCBs to smallmouth bass, a sportfish,
by eating zebra mussels.
The theory was espoused in the mid-1990s after gobies
first entered the Great Lakes via the ballast water of
The Ohio Academy of Sciences' 1,500 members are government
and industry scientists, regulators, academic researchers,
This year's event drew 500, Lynn Elfner, the academy's
chief executive officer, said.
A University of Toledo geology professor, Mark Camp,
was elected yesterday to serve as the academy's president
for the following year, Mr. Elfner said.