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Ohio Fines Three Farmers For Killing Thousands Of Fish In Lake Erie

Garth Clark
U.S. Department of Agriculture
A fishing boat on Lake Erie.

Tens of thousands of fish were killed off in the western Lake Erie basin earlier this year. Now the state of Ohio is holding three men responsible for the fish kills.

Ohio officials say the menapplied manure to farm fields and it ran into streams during August storms. That can cause problems because ammonia from the manure depletes oxygen levels. In northwest Ohio, more than 66,000 fish and other animals died in streams in three counties. 

Manure and commercial fertilizer contribute heavily to water quality problems in western Lake Erie.

Sandy Bihn, executive director of the environmental group Lake Erie Foundation, says the fish kills highlight conflict between the state’s reliance on agriculture and its concern about Lake Erie’s water quality.

“That we keep adding more cows, hogs, and poultry to the basin is a major issue,” Bihn says. “While we’re trying to reduce the amount of nutrients going into Lake Erie on one hand, we’re adding more manure from these animals on the other hand.”

Ohio fined the three men a total of $32,783. Individual fines were related to the number and type of fish.   

Great Lakes Today could not reach the men for comment. 

Great Lakes Today is a collaboration of ideastream Cleveland, WBFO Buffalo and WXXI Rochester.

Reporter/producer Elizabeth Miller joined ideastream after a stint at NPR headquarters in Washington D.C., where she served as an intern on the National Desk, pitching stories about everything from a gentrified Brooklyn deli to an app for lost dogs. Before that, she covered weekend news at WAKR in Akron and interned at WCBE, a Columbus NPR affiliate. Elizabeth grew up in Columbus before moving north to attend Baldwin Wallace, where she graduated with a degree in broadcasting and mass communications.