In an article for The Huffington Post, author David Kirby says the popular tourist destination has become polluted by effluent and run-off from the factory farms on its shores.
As well as 15 or so factory farms, Grand Lake St Mary’s is surrounded by fields of corn and soybean being grown for animal feed. Manure from the farms is being sprayed on to the crops as fertiliser and finding its way into streams, rivers and the 13,500-acre lake itself.
As a result of the tonnes of animal waste, nitrogen, phosphorous and other harmful nutrients, Grand Lake St Mary’s has become unsafe for swimmers, waterskiers and boaters.
“For years, nutrient levels in Grand Lake St Mary’s have been rising,” writes Kirby, author of Animal Factory: the looming threat of industrial pork, dairy and poultry operations to humans and the environment.
“But only in the last three years have they gotten dangerously high, fuelling algae blooms that strangulate fish, smother the water in a putrid green-and-turquoise foam, clog boat engines, foul the air with rancid odors and emit toxins that can cause permanent health problems in people.”
While the Ohio Farm Bureau defends the “family farms” in the area, state governor Ted Strickland, acknowledging the dependence of the local economy on the lake, has called it “a crisis situation”.
“We have reached a tipping point where the degraded nature of the lake is causing significant loss to local businesses and the total livelihood of the region,” he said. Tourism accounts for 2,600 jobs in the region and visitors spend $216 million there annually.
Tests at the lake have already found E.coli and other harmful bacterias linked to liver and nerve damage, while the state warned last year that people should “minimise contact” with its waters after high levels of the toxin microcystin were detected.
The federal government has been asked for immediate aid, and Kirby says the state is likely to receive it “given the Environmental Protection Agency’s aggressive stance against farm runoff since Obama took office”.
To read the article in full, click here