The Seneca Conservation District team was recently part of the Nutrient Bus Tour- a fantastic learning experience to gather information about nutrients flowing into the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) and how they affect Lake Erie algal blooms. Hosts of the day included the five counties of Seneca, Wood, Sandusky, Lucas, and Ottawa. Attendees ranged from different backgrounds- farmers, college & high school students, and Farm Bureau members just to name a few. Everyone came together to Visualize, Learn, Then Decide about solutions in the WLEB.

Visualize

At the City of Oregon Water Plant, attendees learned about how drinking water is filtered from Lake Erie before getting pumped it into city homes.

At the City of Oregon Water Plant, attendees learned how drinking water is filtered from Lake Erie before getting pumped it into city homes.

The bus tour included six stops that allowed attendants to visualize what actions were being taken in the WLEB.

  • MSB Dairy Farms- Wood County
  • Northwestern Water & Sewer District- Cygnet, Ohio
  • USDA-ARS Field Research Site (Edge of Field)- Custar, Ohio
  • Luckey Farmers- Graytown, Ohio
  • Confined Disposal Retention Area- Toledo, Ohio
  • City of Oregon Water Plant- Oregon, Ohio

Here everyone was able to visualize examples of different operations that exemplify the future of the WLEB. Attendees were able to speak with water treatment chemists, dairy farm owners, and USDA researchers. While learning facts and numbers was important at these stations, social perspectives also came into play. By visualizing these things, attendees were able to relate to our hosts and draw different conclusions.

 

Learn

At each site, everyone learned something new. What the attendees learned played a huge role in what their final impression would be. After dinner at Ole Zimms Wagon Shed, keynote speaker Dr. Christopher Winslow of The Ohio State University brought the day to a close. He spoke deeper on how phosphorus contributes to the algal blooms and where it comes from. He also discussed the various studies done by Ohio universities to learn more about runoff in the WLEB.

Then Decide

After visualizing and learning more about how nutrients affect the harmful algal blooms, attendees were able to brainstorm ideas about how we can take action. Ideas about building wetlands and creating a phosphorus filter were tossed around in bus discussions. At the end of the day, three major conclusions were drawn:

  1. More information will be needed to come to an ultimate conclusion.
  2. Further education of the public, including farmers, on the issue is needed.
  3. More time and patience will be needed before the issue is resolved.
The Nutrient Bus tour only scraped the surface of what needs to be done in the WLEB. With time and research, we will make progress. However, it is the ideas and opinions of the public that will solve this issue. In order to come up with a solution that reduces algal blooms AND pleases the public, we need YOUR opinion. We encourage you to do some research and voice your opinion to be part of the solution.

If you would like further information, we encourage you to contact Dr. Christopher Winslow of The Ohio State University at (614) 292-8949 or winslow.33@osu.edu.
 

The bus tour was graciously sponsored and hosted by the County Farm Bureau & SWCD offices of Seneca, Wood, Sandusky, Lucas, & Ottawa as well as the National Center for Water Quality Research and the National Wildlife Federation.

About Sarah Schott

I have enjoyed hunting, fishing, and the outdoors my entire life. My enjoyment of writing, reading, and teaching others leads me to want to share my passions of the environment. I have also found conservation to be very important and I am well aware of how important conservation choices are! Through my work with the District, I like to deliver information that is helpful, inspiring, and challenging for our readers to make even better conservation choices of all our natural resources!

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