WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today urged U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support a methane digester project to reduce harmful algal blooms, like the cyanobacteria in Grand Lake St Marys. Brown wrote to Vilsack in support of a grant application filed by Quasar Energy Group, a northeast Ohio company.
“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.”
Quasar applied for a grant through the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program that would help bring methane digester technology to Grand Lake St Marys; a watershed that has been ravaged by the blue-green algae which left the lake unsafe for swimming this summer and contributed to a decline in tourism and economic hardship for local business.
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. Methane Digestion is a biological process that converts organic matter in manure into a 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 a move towards a clean energy economy.
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.
Full text of the letter is below.
March 10, 2011
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I write today in support of Quasar Energy Group’s proposal for the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program. Waste-to-energy projects like Quasar’s proposed methane digester can benefit farmers and local communities by providing a clean, domestic source of energy, and by reducing phosphorus levels that produce harmful algal blooms.
Quasar’s efforts would be especially helpful with waste management issues at the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed. As you know, Grand Lake St. Marys has been experiencing algal blooms due to high levels of phosphorus present in the watershed. Through the use of anaerobic digesters and innovative nutrient removal and recovery technology, Quasar brings a pioneering approach to nutrient management for the region. This novel approach removes phosphorus from the leftover waste matter from the digesters and turns it into a concentrated product that can be sold outside of the watershed as a green alternative to chemical fertilizer products. This process gives local farmers an opportunity to profit while simultaneously reducing phosphorus levels in the lake.
The economic impact of algal blooms and cyanobacteria in the Grand Lake St Marys region has been devastating. Tourism at the lake is estimated to contribute more than $200 million to Ohio’s economy, but this economic driver is under threat with the continued presence of cyanobacteria. I am confident that by demonstrating the effectiveness of the proposed technology, Quasar and its partners can help improve the water quality in the Grand Lake St. Marys region while serving as a national model of innovative nutrient management.
I look forward to our continuing work on improving the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed and appreciate your consideration of this proposal.
United States Senate