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Ohio EPA Finds Exceptional Biology in Cross Creek Watershed, Ohio River Tributaries in Jefferson and Harrison Counties

Ohio EPA found the biology to be exceptional to very good at sites on select Ohio River tributaries (Island Creek, Croxton Run and Wills Creek) and 10 other sites in Jefferson and Harrison counties, according to a new biological and water quality study that Ohio EPA conducted in 2010. Excellent habitat conditions also were observed in these select tributaries. Very good biology and habitat conditions were observed in the Cross Creek mainstem, and the biology was good at sites on most of the 17 tributaries located in the watershed.

All of the sites on the Cross Creek mainstem and direct Ohio River tributaries were fully meeting the existing or recommended aquatic life use designation. Of the 31 sites where the biology was assessed, 24 sites (77 percent) were fully meeting the goals for fish and macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects and mussels). Another six sites (19 percent) were partially attaining those goals. One site was not assessed. The six impaired streams were located in areas influenced by municipal wastewater discharges and drainage from historic or active coal mining activities. Ohio EPA is partnering with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to identify potential mining reclamation projects to further improve water quality in the Cross Creek watershed. Upgrades at the Wintersville and Jefferson County wastewater treatment plants also should improve water quality in Barbers Hollow.

Recreation use was assessed at nine sites in the watershed by sampling for E. coli bacteria. Five sites failed to meet the E. coli standard limits, indicating the recreation use was not supported in those locations. Sources of the impairment included agriculture and failing home sewage treatment systems.

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 available 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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