For the past 15 years, Ohio has benefited from the work of the Ohio-Israel Ag & CleanTech Initiative, which has looked to Israel for technology and solutions for the state’s largest industry – agriculture.
The OIACI held its annual meeting May 13 in Reynoldsburg and according to Sam Hoenig, president of the Negev Foundation, the initiative’s parent organization, said the biggest issue Ohio faces today with regard to agriculture is remedying the algae issues in the Northwest basin of Lake Erie. In August 2014, toxins released by harmful algae entered the drinking water supply in the Toledo area, leading to a three-day “do not drink” advisory and the area has had other, less severe issues with algae bloom since that crisis.
Hoenig said the initiative has been working with representatives from the local government in Toledo and others on a mission to Israel in November for the Watec Israel conference to learn more about potential solutions to the problem. Hoenig said Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted were invited to go on the mission as well.
“Whether it’s for water, regular surface water, underground water or for the treatment of waste water ... Israel is the No. 1 country, it’s the leading country in world, that reclaims its waste water, 87% of Israel’s waste water is treated and then re-used in agriculture/irrigation,” said Hoenig. “The next country close to it is Spain, with only 17% of its waste water being treated. So, Israel truly is a leader when it comes to waste water management and just water management in general. It’s an industry that is truly on the forefront of Israeli economic development in general. The Israelis are really making a strong effort to disseminate, to put this information and create trade opportunities with many other countries ... and now they’re coming to the states and we’re here in Ohio helping facilitate that opportunity to expand their reach here in the United States.”
Beyond the algae bloom, another large problem Ohio will be facing is the use of aging septic tanks in rural communities.
“Ohio is suffering from a significant breakdown in septic tanks in rural areas and communities not linked to large urban centers that have waste water treatment plants,” Hoenig said. “In a farm just outside of Cuyahoga County, you will find that the septic tanks that are used by homes are beginning to fail, they’re breaking down, they’re beginning to leak. Over 30%, according to statistics from the state, of septic tanks are failing. We have identified and are currently working with three Israeli companies that manufacture septic tank replacement systems. These are very different from the traditional systems that are in place and have been in place for over 100 years. Israeli technology is a bit different in that it treats the waste water differently, whether they’re biodigesters or other technologies that we ourselves aren’t completely familiar or understanding of, but we’re introducing these companies to different communities, townships, the policy makers in different counties throughout the state.”
Other presenters at the meeting included Dorothy Pelanda, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture; Steve Slack, a professor emeritus at The Ohio State University in Columbus; Laura Tegethoff Raish, president of 360Water, Inc.; and Greg Sattler, an engineer at the Cleveland Division of Water.