WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced support for methane digester projects that would reduce harmful algal blooms, like the cyanobacteria in Grand Lake St Marys.
“Waste-to-Energy projects like methane digesters can benefit farmers and communities around inland waters, like Grand Lake St Marys. Local farmers can profit from the production and sale of renewable energy and the lake will start to rebound as phosphorus levels are reduced,” Brown said. “Installation of a Methane Digester facility will not only provide environmental benefits to the community, but would also create jobs and provide consumers with a source of clean, domestic energy. Grand Lake St Marys has always served as an important economic driver for the region and this project provides an opportunity to restore the lake and bring new industry to Mercer and Auglaize Counties.”
The Grand Lake St. Marys watershed encompasses 59,160 acres across Mercer and Auglaize counties in western Ohio. Tourism at the lake is estimated to contribute more than $200 million to the state’s economy, but the blue-green algae left the lake unsafe for swimming this summer and contributed to a decline in tourism and economic hardship for local business. Not only is it a popular recreational lake, but Grand Lake St. Marys serves as a community drinking water resource.
Recent studies on Grand Lake St Marys have shown that excess phosphorus loading of the lake has been the primary reason for toxic algae blooms during the past two summers. Agricultural runoff of livestock manure is considered to be the largest contributor to the excess loading of phosphorous in the lake.
Using manure as fertilizer is a common accepted agricultural practice. It is estimated that there are 30,000 dairy cows, 100,000 beef cattle beef, and 400,000 hogs producing a total of 110,000 tons of manure solids. These solids contain about 250 tons of phosphorous per year in Mercer and Auglaize Counties.
One Part of the Solution
Methane Digestion is a biological process that converts organic matter in manure into valuable biogas, methane. Methane is a renewable energy that can be used for facility heating and converted to electricity or compressed natural gas (CNG), an alternative motor vehicle fuel. This process reduces nutrients flowing into the lake over time.
With the production of methane from livestock manure, availability of CNG as a motor vehicle fuel could provide lower costs and cleaner air for the community. Installation of methane digestion facilities to manage livestock manure represents an opportunity for the Grand Lake St Marys region to address the environmental problem at Grand Lake St Marys, but also to start a move towards a sustainable energy economy.
About Sen. Brown and His GLSM Efforts
Brown, the first Senator from Ohio to serve on the Agriculture Committee in 40 years, has worked during the past three years to secure water quality conservation funding for Grand Lake St. Marys that encourages farmers to use best practices – including cover crops and buffer strips – that will improve the long-term health of the lake.
In August 2010, Brown introduced the Safe Water Intensive Monitoring (SWIM) Act, which would amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and allow the EPA to give grants to local governments in order to monitor and test coastal waters for pathogens and other threats to public health and safety. In April 2010, Grand Lake St Marys received $1 million in funding for the creation of buffer strips along creeks running into Grand Lake St. Marys and for the planting of cover crops. In February 2008, U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded funding to help farmers in Auglaize and Mercer counties participate in a special demonstration project aimed at keeping nutrients and organic material out of area water supplies.
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