The following was published as a Letter to the Editor to the Columbus Dispatch.
The Jan. 20 Dispatch article “State may raise a stink over farmers,” on the pollution of Grand Lake St. Marys, exposed a problem of statewide importance which calls for an integrated solution.
The accompanying map showed an area comparable in size to Greater Columbus, carrying 10 million head of livestock producing 1.6 million tons of manure per year. Imagine Columbus, with only 1 million people, operating without a proper sewage system. That would create quite a stink, both figuratively and literally, yet we allow it to happen wherever there is a concentration of farm livestock.
The answer it not to leave the solution to the farmer, but to ensure that there is a sanitary and effective manure-disposal system available to him, and to have him share the cost of operating it. The know-how is available and well-proven, for example, in Europe.
It involves a system for collecting farm waste and other putrescent waste and treating it at a central station by anaerobic digestion to produce methane gas and solid and liquid waste streams.
The solid waste can be used as a sterile soil improver for livestock bedding, and the liquid can be used as a fertilizer. The gas can produce electricity.
Such systems can be cost-effective if operated on a sufficiently large scale. What is needed is capital and leadership to organize it.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources would seem to be a good place to start, with the cooperation of the farming community.
I am confident that considerable savings are possible.
At the very least, there should be a serious study, maybe paid for by the penalties outstanding.