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Agricultural Pollution
Cows feeding in stalls

The Division of Soil and Water Conservation has the authority to establish standards for a level of management and conservation practices in farming and animal feeding operations. The purpose of these standards is to reduce pollution of waters of the state by soil sediment, animal manure and residual farm products. This authority is granted through Ohio Revised Code Chapter 939.

These regulations apply to all farming operations in Ohio, except those that are permitted through ODA’s Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting or the Ohio EPA.

Enforcement of these regulations is typically performed through a complaint process. If the Division of Soil and Water Conservation receives a complaint alleging that an agricultural operation is not in compliance with these standards, then the Division will investigate. If the Division of Soil and Water Conservation determines that the agricultural operation is in violation of the law, then the Division will seek to find a cooperative solution to return the operation to compliance. ODA may require corrective actions. If these corrective actions are not completed, ODA has the authority to issue a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

ODA has entered into agreements with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) to implement these rules. These agreements give the SWCDs authority to investigate complaints, identify violations, and require corrective actions. SWCDs also assist ODA by providing landowners and farm operators' technical assistance, advice and expertise and informing them of the level of conservation necessary to comply with the rules and standards.


The statewide standards for farming and animal feeding operations are found in Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 901:13-1. The purpose of these standards is to reduce pollution of waters of the state by soil sediment, animal manure and residual farm products. 

Common violations of these rules include:

  • Overflow and discharge from animal manure collection, storage or treatment facilities,
  • Manure contaminated runoff from feedlots and manure management facilities,
  • Pollution from other waste waters, such as milk house waste water or silage leachate,
  • Excessive erosion
  • Pollution occurring from the land application of manure 
  • Improper composting of animal mortality


Watershed in Distress

A watershed in distress is a watershed designated by ODA to have aquatic life and health that is impaired by nutrients or sediment from agricultural land uses and where there is a threat to public health, drinking water supplies, recreation or public safety and welfare.

The Grand Lake St. Marys watershed was designated as a watershed in distress on January 18, 2011.

Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Map

Within this area, there are additional requirements on farming and animal feeding operations. Four of the rules in Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 901:13-1 have provisions that apply specifically to an area designated as a watershed in distress:

Western Lake Erie Basin

Western Lake Erie Basin

There are additional restrictions on the surface application of manure within the area that drains to the Western Lake Erie Basin. These restrictions and penalties are defined in Ohio Revised Code 939.08 & 939.09.

Lake Erie Watershed in Distress Designation Analysis This report provides information related to an analysis of whether areas within the Western Lake Erie Basin watershed should be declared a “watershed in distress” as defined in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 901:13-1-20(A) by the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture


For complaints about agricultural pollution in Ohio, please call (614) 265-6610.
Complaints received will be investigated by the appropriate party.

More on Agricultural Pollution Complaints

Cost Share Program

Cost share monies from the state may be available to assist landowners in installing best management practices necessary to abate animal manure pollution and soil erosion. ODA may offer to share the cost of establishing eligible best management practices up to thirty thousand dollars per person per year.