By Nancy Allen
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and Ohio EPA are investigating a state permitted layer hen operation in Darke County after manure-laden runoff from the farm got into Fort Creek and the Wabash River just west of Fort Recovery.
The farm, at 1085 Union City Road, is owned by Mark Lochtefeld and operated by Willie Lochtefeld, information from the Ohio EPA states. The farm reportedly has 186,000 laying hens.
A passerby reported seeing darke-colored water in the creek and river around noon on Tuesday. Mercer County Wildlife Officer Ryan Garrison, who initially investigated the incident, said there was no resulting fish kill.
Garrison said he does not yet know if the farm will be cited by the division of wildlife, as the investigation is still ongoing by the ODA and EPA.
"You could really tell the difference in the water (color) where Fort Creek empties in to the river," Garrison said Thursday. Rick Wilson of the Ohio EPA, which also works with large livestock farms that hold ODA permits to operate, said both the EPA and ODA are investigating the management of the farm and the practices that occurred leading up to the pollution incident.
State permitted farms can be exempt from Federal Clean Water Act standards and citations if the farm operator can show that best management practices -- including how and in what amount the manure was applied, if setbacks were followed and checking the weather forecast for rain -- were followed.
Wilson said chicken manure from the farm was applied to nearby farmland. Rains last Sunday and Monday caused the manure to run off into Fort Creek, which then emptied into the Wabash River. Wilson said Willie Lochtefeld indicated the chicken manure was spread on Aug. 16 and 17.
"These are some of the toughest ones to investigate," Wilson said. "Getting accurate information on the forecast is difficult."