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Study Finds Tenmile Creek, Ottawa River in Fair Condition
A newly released Ohio EPA water quality report details the results of an extensive study of the Tenmile Creek and Ottawa River watershed in Fulton and Lucas counties.
The study found generally fair water quality conditions in the 225-square-mile study area. However, modern storm water management practices eventually can lead to water quality improvements.
The study included several tributary streams as well as streams flowing directly to Lake Erie and a tributary to Michigan’s River Raisin.
The watershed consists of mostly rural, agricultural land uses in the western section in Fulton County, combined rural and suburban land uses in the central area, including the Oak Openings Region, and urban land uses in the eastern portion in Toledo. Ohio EPA’s studies evaluate streams for human recreation uses and fish and aquatic life habitat.
Historical stream alterations for agricultural drainage and flood control combined with the region’s flat terrain have trapped fine sediments, clogging streams’ natural abilities to filter water pollution. The lack of trees and other vegetation along the stream banks contributes to erosion. In addition, the sunlit water, combined with elevated nutrients, allows algae to thrive and lowers dissolved oxygen levels, stressing aquatic life.
A number of initiatives are improving storm water management and water quality. Since 2002, there has been more focus on green infrastructure including grassy swales and rain gardens that capture and slow storm water, helping sediments settle out.
Two key efforts include the Toledo Waterways Initiative and the Lucas County Storm Water Utility. The Toledo Waterways Initiative is improving wastewater treatment plant efficiencies, eliminating combined sewer overflows and providing matching funds for green storm water enhancements. The Lucas County utility is focused on improving storm water and flooding issues.
In addition, work on the lower Ottawa River has removed nearly 10,000 cubic yards of sediments contaminated with PCBs, hydrocarbons and metals from the river and Sibley Creek. Several landfills in the Ottawa River watershed in Toledo have been remediated to eliminate leaching toxins.
These activities are expected to lead to rapid improvements in the lower reach of the Ottawa River, similar to improvements already seen in the upstream areas.
The biological and water quality study is designed to characterize the consequences of various land uses, evaluate the influences of agricultural, industrial and commercial discharges and spills, evaluate the performance of permitted wastewater treatment plants, evaluate the quality of fish and macroinvertebrate communities in the streams, compare results with historic conditions and determine if streams are meeting designated aquatic life and human recreation uses.
Ohio is required by the federal Clean Water Act to identify waters that do not meet water quality standards and develop plans to bring the affected waters into compliance. The study will be part of Ohio EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) report that discusses strategies to improve water quality where impairments were identified. The TMDL program establishes the maximum amount of pollutants a water body can receive on a daily basis without violating water quality standards.
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. Since then, 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.