Fertilizer Chemicals Blamed for Water Contamination

Posted in: United States Water News, Water Contamination
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(Photo credit: nbc4i)

Article courtesy of Mike Bowersock | June 9, 2015 | nbc4i | Shared as educational material

COLUMBUS, Ohio –While it is not a severe or as dangerous the Toledo water crisis, which left nearly a half million people dry last August, the elevated nitrate levels in Columbus water has similarities.

Both came from down on the farm, some of it from the fertilizers used to grow the crops, and some of it from what supplies the fertilizers: the cows.

“What appears to have happened is the farmers had gotten their fertilizers done and subsequent to that a major rainfall came through and washed the fertilizer off the surface or washed it through drain tiles,” said Rick Westerfield, Administrator of Division of Water for the City of Columbus.

Following the Toledo crisis, a new law was passed called Senate Bill 1. It goes into effect July 3 and deals with the Maumee River basins and the two dozen rivers and creeks that make up farm overflow nearby. It prohibits fertilizers consisting of nitrogen or phosphorous and maintains that fertilizer cannot be put on snow-covered or frozen soil.

Also, if there has been excessive rain and the first two inches of soil are saturated, fertilizer can’t be applied. Even if more than one inch of rain is predicted in a 12-hour period, no fertilizer.

Farmers can use whatever fertilizer they want if it is injected into the ground or if it is applied to a growing crop, like what is in the fields today. But when the farmers need the fertilizer most, before and during planting, there are serious restrictions.

This summer, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is scouring the area around the Maumee River basin collecting water samples, fish and other life trying to determine where the fertilizers that create the algae blooms originate.

Here in Columbus, the Columbus Division of Water is also trying to figure out where the high nitrates originate, but most of the Scioto is not in Columbus and most of it runs through farmland.

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