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Ohio EPA Announces Results of Walhonding River and Muskingum River Tributaries Study; Biology and Water Chemistry Good

Ohio EPA is announcing the results of the first comprehensive biological and water quality study of the Walhonding and Muskingum River tributaries in Southeast Ohio. In general, biological resources can be described as good to very good. Exceptional fish and macroinvertebrate communities were collected in Mohawk Creek and its unnamed tributary.

The 2010 study included Mill, Mohawk and Symmes Creeks and Blunt, Beards, Beaver, Dutch, Honey, Flint, Simmons, Crooked, Turkey, Spoon and Robinson Runs in Coshocton and Muskingum counties.

The Walhonding River has been sampled for both fish and macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects) since the 1980s. Other than the area near Warsaw impounded by Six Mile Dam, the river’s biological index scores have continually improved through time. The Walhonding has been fully meeting exceptional warmwater habitat aquatic life use criteria since 1994.

Thirty-five biological samples were collected and assessed throughout the watershed. Sixty-three percent of the study area met the goals of the Clean Water Act for aquatic life; 23 percent of sites studied partially met these goals; and five percent did not meet the goals. In Robinson Run and Mill Run in the upper Muskingum River watershed, the nonattainment was attributed to the effects of acid mine drainage from abandoned mine lands. Biological communities also were impaired in the Mill Creek subwatershed and in the lower reach of Beaver Run due to agriculture.

Though water chemistry in the Walhonding and Muskingum tributaries was generally considered good, bacterial contamination was noted throughout the watershed. Twenty-two locations in the watershed were tested for bacteria indicators (E. coli) to determine recreation use attainment status. Only eight locations were in full attainment of the designated recreation use.

As part of Ohio EPA’s continuous effort to monitor and report on the quality of streams throughout Ohio, Ohio EPA employees collect chemical, physical and biological samples from dozens of sites in each study area. Ohio EPA analyzes information about the abundance and variety of fish and aquatic insects, especially those species sensitive to pollution, and the presence of bacteria, metals and nutrients. The Agency has one of the most advanced water quality monitoring programs in the nation, determining the health of rivers and streams by sampling stream biology and habitat in addition to water chemistry.

The Agency shares this information with local governments, landowners and citizens so they can develop plans to maintain and/or restore waterways impacted by identified sources of pollution. Sources could range from sewage treatment plants, industrial facilities and coal mines to low-head dams and urban and rural runoff. Stakeholders also can use the information to request assistance from Ohio EPA and other funding sources for projects that alleviate water quality problems and protect the resource for drinking water and recreational enjoyment. More information is online about Ohio EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load Program.

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The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. In the past 40 years, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling. Ohio EPA -- 40 years and moving forward.


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