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Ohio’s waterways have a dirty history. In the 1960s, flames on the polluted Cuyahoga River helped spark the Clean Water Act. Today, another problem is flowing downstream.
With each rainfall, fertilizer runoff from fields flows through the watershed into Lake Erie, creating an unhealthy concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. On a warm summer day, the concentration of these elements creates the perfect habitat for toxic algae blooms. These blooms can block sunlight and out-compete other species, using up the oxygen in the water. This creates dead zones where fish, plants and other aquatic species cannot survive.
The agriculture industry is taking steps toward the more sustainable use of these fertilizers. Precision land management and controlling runoff through conservation practices can limit the impact agriculture has on the environment.