9711 East Pike
Cambridge, OH 43725

Our Mission

Promote through education and technical assistance, the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Viruses and septic systems

Viruses are in the news. Children around the country are sickened with enterovirus D68, one of a group of very contagious viruses that live in the intestinal track. Therefore, they are in the waste of infected people. People are really alarmed to learn about the spread of ebola virus, that moves through contact with bodily fluids, like human waste. When waste containing viruses are washed or flushed down the drain from an infected person, what happens to them?

Read Rest of Article  HERE

Monday, October 20, 2014

OEPA Director Outlines Targeted Algae Strategy

Environmentalists and Democrats want the Kasich administration to impose tighter regulations on fertilizer in northwest Ohio, but the state's chief environmental regulator recently said Lake Erie's algae problem requires a nuanced approach.  Toledo's algae-spawned drinking water crisis last summer prompted many environmental groups, Democratic lawmakers and even some farmers to urge the administration to declare the Maumee River Watershed "distressed," which would trigger tougher fertilizer regulations in the area. Three years ago the administration responded to toxic algal blooms in Grand Lake St. Marys by designating it a distressed watershed. Local farmers had to comply with certain restrictions on handling and storage of manure and fertilizer.

However, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler said the toxic algae situation in the Western Lake Erie Basin is more complicated.  "If you look at the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed, you can see that it truly was a distressed watershed," he said in an interview.  "If you look at the western basin of the Maumee - there's no denying there's an issue there, but if you get more granular by trying to identify in the sub-watershed what those problems are - is it all agricultural? Is it wastewater treatment overflows? Is it failing septic systems? We've been looking at that," he said.  Director Butler said the administration is trying to pinpoint specific problems that contribute to nutrient loading in each watershed that flows into the lake.  "You can come up with a prescription there that is tailored to a smaller watershed rather than paint it with a big, broad brush and say the whole thing is distressed, which is only focused on agriculture," he said. "We're trying to come up with a much more targeted strategy that will get us to the same goal than just automatically tagging the western basin as a distressed watershed."

House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Dave Hall recently outlined a similar approach. He said a mid-biennium review measure still pending in his committee (HB 490*) could pick up some algae-related amendments during lame duck session, but a broader solution will likely have to wait until the next biennial budget.

Democrats have accused Republicans of delaying action on the algae issue so as not to incur the wrath of the agricultural lobby.  Rep. Michael Sheehy and Rep. John Patterson this week pressured OEPA to set standards for safe levels of the algae-produced toxin microcystin in drinking water. The Democrats criticized Director Butler's decision to wait for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a national limit next year.  "The Ohio EPA should settle on a standard so testing practices can be fine-tuned and deemed adequate before microcystin becomes a problem again next summer," Rep. Sheehy said in a statement. "It's disappointing and downright unacceptable that our state officials are sitting on their hands and unwilling to do more to prevent the next water crisis."  Reps. Sheehy and Patterson, who cosponsored legislation to require OEPA to set microcystin standards (HB 625*), said the administration's opposition to other federal environmental regulations, like pending climate change rules, argue for the agency developing its own drinking water standards.  "This is about developing an Ohio solution for an Ohio problem," Rep. Patterson said. "This is our opportunity to make a difference at the state and local levels, but the Ohio EPA seems to be punting to the same federal government it consistently attacks for overreaching. Ohio can immediately address the toxins that are polluting our drinking water. We are only missing the will."

Meanwhile, the Ohio Farmers' Union recently announced its intention to seek amendments to the MBR that would require greater information sharing about how farms are handling livestock manure.  One proposal would require confined animal feeding operations or third party contractors to report information about manure shipped offsite to address what OFU calls the "manure loophole" on regulated CAFOs.  The group also plans to ask lawmakers to allow local soil and water conservation districts and other agencies to share data included in nutrient management plans to develop regional pollution abatement strategies, while preventing disclosure of proprietary information.  "The information we have to work with today tells us that the there is a problem in the Lake Erie watershed, but not the specific sources or locations. There's a hole in the data; we need to fill that hole," OFU President Joe Logan stated.  OFU cited research by Ohio State University professor Jeffrey Reutter, director of Ohio Sea Grant, that shows a 40% reduction in phosphorous entering Lake Erie will be necessary to address the annual hazardous algal blooms.  Mr. Reutter told the group's recent forum that agriculture is responsible for about two-thirds of the algae problem in the Western Lake Erie Watershed. Municipal wastewater treatment systems, aging home septic systems and residential lawn care are other significant sources of phosphorous.

In other algal news, OSU's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences said the new fertilizer applicator certification training program created in legislation passed earlier this year (SB 150*) has already trained 777 Ohio farmers since it was launched last month.  Greg LaBarge, an OSU Extension field specialist, said the training covers water quality and crop production best management practices.  "By advocating the continued improvement in nutrient use and efficiencies, the training can help growers boost farm profits by using just enough nutrients to maximize yield, which reduces the potential for water quality impact offsite," he said. "The training benefits farmers and Ohioans by reducing the water quality issues that we have in the state."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Statehouse News: Ebola Containment

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff headed to Ohio Thursday to assist with state and local Ebola response efforts following reports that a Dallas nurse who tested positive for the virus visited the state prior to her diagnosis.  At the request of Gov. John Kasich, the liaisons will coordinate efforts between Ohio and the CDC, as well as assist in contact tracing efforts to determine who may have come in contact with Ebola patient Amber Vinson during her recent four-day trip to Summit County.  The Department of Health also stepped up its Ebola containment strategies on Thursday by issuing new guidelines to health departments and providers stating that anyone who has come into direct contact with the Ebola patient should be quarantined for 21 days and monitored by doctors. ODH defines direct contact to include shaking hands.

Meanwhile, anyone who came within a three-foot radius of the patient for an extended period of time, such as those passengers who rode on the airplane from Cleveland to Dallas alongside Ms. Vinson, should check body temperature twice daily for 21 days. At least one symptom check should be completed by a doctor, according to the revised protocols.  Others who were in the vicinity of Ms. Vinson are also being asked to monitor their health at home and contact doctors if they experience Ebola symptoms, which include fever, unexplained bruising and bleeding, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea.

"The ODH guidelines are being recommended out of an abundance of caution to take strong measures to protect Ohio residents," Dr. Mary DiOrio, state epidemiologist and interim chief of the ODH Bureau of Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a statement. "It has become clear that we cannot be too careful in efforts to contain the spread of this deadly disease."  The day before reports that Ms. Vinson had been in Akron from Oct. 10-13 and had an elevated temperature prior to boarding a plane at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Ms. DiOrio and other state health officials said it was highly unlikely that Ohio would be at risk for an Ebola outbreak.

In an effort to respond to questions regarding the virus and the state's response to it, ODH has opened a 24-hour call center that can be reached at 866-800-1404.  The call center, which is housed at ODH and staffed by public health nurses and other public health professionals, officially began operations Wednesday night, the department said.  Also taking strict precautions to contain the virus were two Cleveland-area schools that closed Thursday to be disinfected after district leaders learned that a teacher may have flown on the same plane, but not the same flight, as Ms. Vinson.  According to emails sent from Solon Middle School and Parkside Elementary School, the CDC and local health department did not order the schools to be closed and have said that the staff member is not at risk for contracting Ebola.  "We made the decision to close Solon Middle and Parkside for tomorrow out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our students and staff," the email stated.  A Cleveland Municipal School District building was open to students Thursday after being disinfected overnight. The precautions were taken after it was determined that a teacher may have come in contact with Ms. Vinson.  The Cranwood School teacher will not return to work until cleared to do so by health professionals, district spokeswoman Roseann Canfora said in an email.

FirstEnergy also sent two workers home Thursday, with pay, to be isolated for the incubation period of up to 21 days. The company said in a statement that one worker was identified by the CDC as having had contact with Ms. Vinson during her visit and a second worker self-identified as possibly having had contact.  ODH recommended that Ohio hospitals conduct training and practice drills within the next two days to ensure that they're prepared to safely test and treat potential Ebola patients.  The training of frontline staff should include instruction on how to properly receive, isolate and implement proper infection control practices for a potential Ebola patient as well as how to properly put on and remove personal protective equipment, the department said.

Director Rick Hodges said in ODH efforts to connect with health care providers, it has learned that a "recurring theme" among nurses is that more training is needed on the use of personal protective equipment.  ODH also said Thursday that agency leaders will continue to consult with infectious disease experts until it's determined that the virus has been contained.

In the meantime, Senate President Keith Faber said the upper chamber will not move forward with joint legislative hearings on the state's Ebola response. Democrats called for the meetings immediately following reports that Ms. Vinson was in Ohio.  "You don't ask the firefighters to jump off the truck on their way to the fire and explain how they plan to put it out," he said in a statement. "I think it's best right now for us to step back and let the experts do their jobs. Unlike the federal government, the governor's administration has taken a proactive and transparent approach to the threat. We need to give them room and that isn't helped at this point by a legislative hearing process.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District Election

On Wednesday October 29th, the Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District will be holding their 72th annual meeting and banquet.  Every year the GSWCD holds an annual meeting for the purpose of electing members to the five member board that comprises the board of supervisors for the district.  This year there will be two members elected to a three-year term.

The mission of the Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District is to promote through education and technical assistance the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.  The traditional perception of the Soil and Water Conservation District has been one of working primarily with the agricultural community.  The district does work on natural resource issues with local agriculture but in addition to that it is a considerable resource to all landowners and land users in Guernsey County.

This year's slate of candidates for election to the district board of supervisors include; John Enos, Ken Ford, and Rich Ripley.  The two candidates with the most votes will be elected to a three-year term.  The official election will begin at 6:00 pm Wednesday, October 29th at the Mr Lee’s Restaurant, 2000 E Wheeling Ave, Cambridge, Ohio.  Voting may be done from 6:00pm to 7:30pm.

The buffet will be served at 7:00pm, with a brief program following the meal.  Tickets for the banquet are $10, and can be purchased from any current board member, or from the SWCD office.  If you are unable to attend the day of the election, absentee ballots are available at the district office located at 9711 East Pike, Cambridge, Ohio until 4:00pm October 29th.  Eligible voters are all individuals who are at least 18 years of age and a resident of Guernsey County or at least 18 years of age and own real estate in Guernsey County.  Consider participating in this important process.  For additional information you may contact the Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District office at (740) 435-0408.


Our new phone system should be installed and working sometime Wednesday, October 15th.
Our address remains the same.
New phone numbers for the district:

Fax  435-0414

The numbers for FSA and NRCS remain the same, although they have moved to a new office location.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bottle deposit petition approved by Ohio attorney general

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Wednesday certified the petition for a proposed "Bottle Bill for Ohio" amendment to the Ohio Constitution. A previous attempt for approval was denied in March because supporters failed to properly collect the required number of signatures.

Read more HERE

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Earth Science Week: October 12-18

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) encourages Ohioans to explore the state’s geologic features during Earth Science Week, Oct. 12-18.  Earth Science Week encourages people to learn more about the geosciences and promotes an awareness of the natural world. The ODNR Division of Geological Survey encourages teachers and all Ohioans to take advantage of the opportunities available during Earth Science Week to explore and learn more about the geology beneath their feet.  ODNR experts will be at events throughout the state to share insights about how Earth systems interact and change the Earth’s landscape over time.

 Several venues will offer Ohioans an opportunity to talk to geologists. Survey geoscientists will also take part in other events and will visit several schools.  Geologists will lead guided tours on:  The Fall Geology Hike at Mohican State Park (Ashland County); the annual Fall Hike at Lake Hope State Park (Vinton County); and, the Hike with Nature along the Miami and Erie Canal in St. Marys (Auglaize County).  The ODNR Geological Survey will have some free Earth Science Week Teacher Toolkits available at some of its events. Ohio teachers may also request these toolkits, which include experiment materials, a calendar, posters, activity sheets and more that teachers can use in the classroom. The toolkits are free (except shipping) for any Ohio teacher while supplies last, by visiting the Geologic Records Center, located at 2045 Morse Road, Building C-1, Columbus, Ohio 43229. Teachers may also call 614-265-6596 or email geo.survey@dnr.state.oh.us to order a toolkit.

Survey geoscientists continually explore Ohio’s geology and use their understanding of Earth’s connected systems to research and report on critical issues that affect the public and industry, including energy and environmental challenges, natural resources, habitats and geologic hazards.  A complete list of events is available at OhioGeology.com. The website also offers details about various free resources, such as walking tour guides, leaflets and maps that Ohioans can use to explore the state’s geology.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Wildlife/Forestry Specialist for GSWCD

My name is Levi Arnold, and I was born and raised right here in Guernsey County a few miles west of Seneca Lake. I grew up on a small tree and cattle farm helping my grandfather and my uncle where I still help my uncle out to this day. When I’m not at work or working at the farm I like to fish, canoe, and hunt. Duck hunting is my favorite thing to do and I also enjoy traditional archery.

In 2011, I graduated from Meadowbrook High School and always knew I wanted to pursue a career in doing something outdoors and helping people. That summer I enrolled in classes in Zane State College chasing an Associate’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management and also working on a private fish hatchery. While at Zane State I got a job working at The Wilds as a groundskeeper and I also worked as a fishing attendant. Taking people fishing and making sure they had a great time was an awesome experience. While still taking classes, the next summer rolled around and I was able to get a job as a seasonal worker with ODNR Division of Wildlife at Salt Fork Wildlife Area. There I spent six months learning different wildlife habitat management techniques and implementing them. In the spring of 2014, I got a full time position at Belmont SWCD as an agriculture technician where I helped out with several educational programs, headed the equipment rentals and maintenance, and worked with NRCS doing field visits and assessments. Also that spring I completed my degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management.

So now I’ve made my way back home here to Guernsey County.  I’m glad to have the opportunity to work here in my home county and try to make a difference in the community that helped shape me. If there’s anything we can do for you, give the Guernsey Soil & Water Conservation District office a call or stop in!
The office hours are Monday through Friday from 8-4:30PM, and the NEW office phone number is 740-435-0408.

Levi Arnold
Wildlife/Forestry Specialist
Guernsey SWCD

Friday, October 3, 2014

Simple Pleasures

If you have driven west bound on I-70 coming from east of Cambridge, you may have noticed the new restroom facilities at the entrance to Moore Memorial Woods.  These were built by Jack Warne Construction, replacing a very "rustic" wooden privy which had seen better days.  The road into the woods that leads to the top of the first hill, along with three parking lots around the pavilion have been regraded and freshly graveled.  Some much needed culvert and drainage work was done along the road, as well.  Tom Lehotay did this work.

Over the next few months, work will be done to widen, improve, and generally make the hiking trails at the woods more accessible and educational.  The pavilion also needs some repair and upgrading, and it is hoped that a potable water supply can be developed from the existing water well.  This will require an upgrade to the electric supply as well.

The ultimate goal is to make Moore Woods a better place for the Guernsey County community to enjoy and learn from.  The Woods was donated to the district to be used to educate the public about woodlands and forest management.  There is no better way to learn about a subject than to get out and immerse yourself in it.  It is our hope that you will take advantage of the woods.  Stay tuned for more info about the improvements at the Woods!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Statehouse News: Hall Says He's Working On Toxic Algae Issue; MBR, Next Budget Could See Amendments

Six weeks after Speaker Bill Batchelder pledged the House would "proactively review" the toxic algae problem, the chamber has yet to hold a hearing on the issue. Chairman Rep. Dave Hall, however, says he's been working on proposals that could be ready for lame duck session.  Toledo's move to ban drinking water for several days due to an outbreak of harmful algae blooms in western Lake Erie prompted widespread calls for action to combat the toxin-producing water plants now thriving in Ohio's lakes. Speaker Batchelder charged Rep. Hall, chairman of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, to study the problem.

While there have been no committee hearings since then, Mr. Hall said that he's been busy working behind the scenes on the issue.  "It's consuming my every day waking moment," he said in an interview. "We may not be having hearings but I'm gathering a lot of information." The initial review focused on algae in Lake Erie, but the chairman said he's become convinced that the state needs to take a broader approach because the nutrient sources that feed toxic algae blooms vary in each watershed.  "Is it animal waste, is it septic systems that are failing, is it wastewater treatment systems? There's a gamut of issues all the way down to the Canadian geese," he said.

Democrats have accused Republicans of foot-dragging on the issue to avoid angering the agriculture industry during the election season.  Rep. Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party and a member of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, expressed doubt that the Republican-controlled administration and legislature have any appetite to really stem the flow of agricultural runoff and other pollution feeding the algae.  "There are fundamental things the government can do. Providing drinking water is one of them, and in this case this state has failed in that regard," he said.  "There'll be another crisis, people will go without water and then we'll all hand out water bottles as if that's solving the problem. It doesn't. And hopefully something happens at that time," he said. "I have no confidence that we'll be able to find any kind of real and sustained effort to mitigate the damage that was done."

Chairman Hall said he didn't see the point in calling members to Columbus just to have hearings before a viable proposal is properly before the committee.  "I like to work in stakeholder meetings before we get (proposals) out there so that our committee can be very efficient in the process," he said. "I don't just want to put a bill out there so we can pat ourselves on the back and say we got a bill passed and it's finished. This thing, this does not get finished overnight. So I'm not foot-dragging."

Ohio Farm Bureau spokesman Joe Cornely said farmers are already stepping up to do their part to reduce agricultural runoff and pointed to a high level of participation in the first fertilizer certification training course offered as part of legislation (SB 150) adopted this spring.  The Farm Bureau is willing to consider additional regulations to prevent agricultural runoff, he said. However, the organization wants to make sure any new restrictions comport with science and are worth the additional cost.  "We are willing to listen to proposals out there because we know how important this is," he said. "But what we are going to be doing, as we do at any time there is a proposed regulation, is we need to look at how realistic it is and what are the chances of unintended consequences," he added.  "It's our contention that it would be a mistake if we consider water quality as our sole goal without the recognition that we need to have viable agriculture as well," Mr. Cornely said.

Ohio Farmers' Union President Joe Logan said his organization believes the time has come for a regulatory approach because years of voluntary efforts to reduce nutrient runoff have not solved the algae problem.  However, the Farmers' Union is not asking for new legislation, he said. Rather, the group believes the administration's existing authority to impose targeted restrictions in distressed watersheds would be a better starting point, he added.  Mr. Logan said regulations on livestock farms that the administration imposed in the algae-choked Grand Lake St. Marys watershed have been helpful in alleviating the problem. "If a regulatory program is needed, we think that you should use a targeted and limited regulatory approach."  Livestock operations contribute to about one-third of the phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie, he said, citing information from the Ohio Phosphorus Task Force.  "If you're serious about addressing the issues of nutrient loading into western Lake Erie, we can't ignore that major source," he said.

Next Steps: Chairman Hall said he envisioned a "two-pronged attack" on the algae issue, with amendments to the environmental mid-biennium review measure (HB 490*) that will pass out of his committee this fall and more comprehensive proposals to be handled through the biennial budget process next spring.  "490 is probably going to help in some fixes, but as a whole picture I'd say a lot of it's going to be: are we going to be able to use our state funds ... in the budget to leverage some of the federal funds, especially in the farm bill," he said.  Rep. Hall said the Kasich administration's MBR proposal to shift oversight of livestock manure to the Ohio Department of Agriculture requires greater scrutiny since much of the federal funding for local soil and water conservation districts flows through the Department of Natural Resources.

With Congress taking notice of the toxic algae issue, state policymakers need to keep an eye on how Washington directs a potential increase in federal funding to improve water quality in the Great Lakes, he said.

Environmental groups have lobbied for tougher restrictions on livestock manure, a major algae nutrient in heavy agricultural areas. But Chairman Hall said the state needs to sort out the jurisdictional issues before revisiting the question of whether new fertilizer certification requirements should be broadened to manure.

The same goes for banning manure spreading on frozen ground, he said, pointing to questions over how to regulate the practice on leased farmland. Realities often force farmers to apply the waste at times when it can get washed off frozen fields because they lack adequate storage capacity, which can be very costly, he added.  "I think a lot of this is going to come down to helping provide some grant money to some of these farmers to be able to have these manure holding tanks," Rep. Hall said. "It's a timing issue for farmers."  Similarly, the chairman said the Clean Ohio program offers potential for boosting conservation easements that offer incentives for farmers to plant cover crops that help stem the flow of agricultural runoff.  While much of the algae discussion heretofore has centered on agricultural nutrients, another major source of the problem is sewage, both from municipal wastewater systems and home septic systems.

Chairman Hall said he was considering the possibility of new funding sources that could help local governments draw down more federal funding to upgrade combined sewer systems that flush raw sewage into waterways during heavy rains.  "The talk I would see that's going to be down here in Columbus is: can you find funds at the state level to help draw down federal dollars to help these systems be rebuilt?" he said.  One possibility is to earmark a portion of new revenue from a proposal to raise the oil and gas severance tax for local wastewater systems and conservation easement programs, he said.  Given the fact that toxic algae is a problem for several nearby states and Canada, Chairman Hall said he believes the ultimate solution will require a multi-state and international agreement similar to the Great Lakes Compact, which governs large-scale consumption of the lake water.   "Water doesn't have borders. When you have political subdivisions, in Ohio or wherever it is, it doesn't stop, it flows. So if we're impacting another state or another state is impacting us or another country, that's something we need to address on water quality," he said.

Toxin Monitoring: Meanwhile, Rep. Michael Sheehy and Rep. John Patterson announced Friday the introduction of a bill to require the monitoring of the harmful toxin microcystin in Ohio's public water systems.  "After over 400,000 Northwest Ohioans were forced to go without water in August, it became clear that we need a better, more established system for monitoring our public water systems," Rep. Sheehy said in a statement.  The proposal would set state standards for acceptable and dangerous levels of microcystin in drinking water and require the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to develop monitoring procedures.  The bill would also require public water system operators to immediately notify the local board of health if the water contains a dangerous level of microcystin. The board's director would then take steps to alert the general public.  "Access to clean water is a right that all Ohioans should have," Rep. Patterson said. "The legislature has been moving slower than we'd hoped when it comes to limiting the proliferation of harmful algal blooms. In the meantime, we must ensure that the public is informed as quickly as possible should their drinking water be compromised again."  Rep. Sheehy also recently introduced legislation that would prohibit spreading manure on frozen farm fields (HB 611).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Importance of Oaks

NEW PHILADELPHIA, OHIO - Dave Apsley, Natural Resources Specialist - OSU Extension Jackson County, will be the featured speaker at the Oct. 1 8 PM meeting of the East Central Ohio Forestry Association (ECOFA).  Dave's program will explain the many-faceted reasons that oak trees are probably the most important tree species in Ohio.

ECOFA is an organization of persons interested in improving their woodlands and in forestry-related topics.   The public is cordially invited to attend the free meetings which are held monthly at McDonald-Marlite Lewis Conference Center, 143 McDonald Drive NW in New Philadelphia.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Updates to GSWCD area at the Fairgrounds.

I hope everyone has had a good week at the Fair so far!! If you haven't noticed yet, The Guernsey SWCD area has been dramatically updated. There is now a new Kiosk with tons of information and a Cover Crop Display off to the left of the building. Where the pond use to be, is now a picnic area so that people can sit and enjoy their meals. Also, there is now a pathway to the building filled in with rocks for easy access to our building. Check out the new updates to the GSWCD area when you are out at the fair!!!! We will be at our Fair building Friday from around 11:30 am to 6 pm for anyone with questions. Please check our our Facebook page as well as our blogspot at guernseysoil.blogspot.com