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Environment & Energy

Three Ohio Farmers Are Fined After Runoff Kills Thousands of Fish in Lake Erie

photo of Lake Erie

Tens of thousands of fish were killed off in the western Lake Erie basin earlier this year. Now the state of Ohio is holding three men responsible for the fish kills. Great Lakes Today’s Elizabeth Miller has more.


Ohio officials say the men applied manure to farm fields and it ran into streams during August storms.  That can cause problems because ammonia from the manure depletes oxygen levels. In northwest Ohio, more than 66,000 fish and other animals were killed in streams in three counties. 

Manure and commercial fertilizer contribute heavily to water quality problems in western Lake Erie.

Sandy Bihn, executive director of the environmental group Lake Erie Foundation,  says the fish kills highlighta conflict between the state’s reliance on agriculture and its concern about Lake Erie’s water quality.

“That we keep adding more cows, hogs, and poultry to the basin is a major issue,” she says. “While we’re trying to reduce the amount of nutrients going into Lake Erie on one hand, we’re adding more manure from these animals on the other hand.”

Ohio fined the three men a total of $32,783. Individual fines were related to the number and type of fish.   

Great Lakes Today could not reach the men for comment. 

Great Lakes Today is a collaboration of ideastream Cleveland, WBFO Buffalo and WXXI Rochester.