By Nancy Allen
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials last week began wading around in creeks and streams around Grand Lake to gather water quality data.
The data is being gathered from the Grand Lake and Beaver Creek watersheds for a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study.
The U.S. EPA is requiring all states to complete TMDL studies of impaired watersheds to ensure compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act. Nineteen TMDL studies already have been completed in Ohio, said Ohio EPA official Katie McKibben, including one for the Wabash River Watershed in Mercer and Darke counties.
McKibben wants area residents to know what Ohio EPA folks are doing in the streams. They will continue to gather water samples in both watersheds through at least the end of June.
"We want to get some data during high (water) flow events," she said. The local study will encompass all tributaries to Grand Lake and to Beaver Creek downstream from the lake.
The purpose of the study is to calculate pollution loads in waterways. Pollutants can come from industrial discharges, wastewater treatments plants, farmland or septic runoff and other sources. The study then calculates the amount of pollution that needs removed for waterways to meet Federal Clean Water Act standards of fishable, swimmable and drinkable water, McKibben said.
A draft of the study should be available this fall to gather public input on water quality solutions.
The data currently being collected will be combined with Ohio EPA water quality data that was gathered June through October 1999 to get a clear picture of pollutant loading that occurs during different times of each year. Much of the 1999 data was gathered during a low flow period.
"I doubt that anything will have changed drastically since the 1999 data was gathered," McKibben said. "It will likely point to the same impairments and same solutions."
The 1999 study determined that the Grand Lake Watershed is one of the most degraded in the state. The main impairments were sediment from farm field runoff, construction sites and other areas; nutrients, especially phosphorous, from manure and fertilizer; a lack of trees and vegetation along tributaries that contribute to bank erosion and the cleaning out or straightening of streams, an act that increases water flow, but contributes to poor water quality.
All EPA officials will be carrying identification and credentials with them.