Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
By Nancy Allen
Snow melts, manure runs
'Severe' manure pollution incident reported Monday
Brown water was flowing in a creek and river north of Fort Recovery on Monday due to manure pollution.
Local, state of Ohio and Indiana officials were called to the scene at the intersection of state Routes 29 and 49. The dairy manure came from the RF Schaefer & Sons farm at 5629 state Route 49, said Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District Technician Matt Heckler.
Heckler said a large amount of manure ran off a melting field and into a side ditch. From there, it flowed into Hickory Branch Creek and into the Wabash River. The manure was applied last week and on Sunday.
The Ohio EPA this morning said it is investigating the Schaefer dairy, but there may be as many as two other farms that also had manure discharges in the same area.
"Yes, we are investigating it," said Ohio EPA spokeswoman Dina Pierce. "We are out there again today."
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) also had a responder at the scene, confirmed IDEM official Dave Daugherty this morning, though it is unclear if it was related solely to the Schaefer dairy. Daugherty referred further comments to IDEM's public information department.
Mercer County Wildlife Officer Ryan Garrison was among officials investigating Monday's manure runoff, which he called large and severe.
"There was a definite odor of manure to it," Garrison said this morning. "Manure was running off the field and into the creek."
This isn't the first time the dairy has polluted.
Garrison said he cited the dairy in 2003 for a misdemeanor stream litter charge, for which dairy owner Robert Schaefer was fined $250 and court costs. Over-applied manure got into a field tile, then into Hickory Branch Creek and then the Wabash River, he said. Wildlife officers can no longer issue stream litter citations for manure pollution because the law changed some years ago, Garrison said.
The pollution incident is located in the Wabash River Watershed, which is not subject to recently approved manure management rules. Those rules were put in place for the Grand Lake Watershed, which has been labeled distressed.
Other farms are given recommendations to follow when applying manure in the wintertime. Those recommendations include limiting application rates, following setbacks away from creeks and streams and applying only on fields that have vegetative cover such as a hay field.
Kevin Schaefer, the son of Robert Schaefer, this morning blamed the runoff on "too much snow melting."
He said he was aware spreading manure on frozen and/or snow-covered ground is not recommended. He said he had enough storage but "just wanted to get the manure out of the cow yard."
"Yeah, from now on we won't haul on frozen ground," he said.
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