By Elise Franco
The entities involved in the Meander Creek Watershed Action Plan look to residents to determine the biggest issues moving forward.
About 75 residents from some of the 12 Mahoning and Trumbull county communities that get their water from the Meander Reservoir attended a forum Tuesday night at Ellsworth Administration Building to discuss the watershed action plan.
The meeting was organized by representatives from Mill Creek MetroParks, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District.
George Warnock, watershed coordinator, said Tuesday’s meeting was aimed at getting input from residents on what issues they want addressed in the watershed plan.
“We want residents to remember they play a role in the success of this,” he said.
Warnock explained that putting the plan into action is a multistep process that includes gathering information, identifying problems, finding solutions, receiving endorsements from the state and implementation.
One issue that’s already been identified is a considerable number of failing septic systems within the watershed area, said Stephanie Dyer, Eastgate program manager.
Dyer said though the number of septic failures has decreased over the past five years, from 43 in 2006 to 11 in 2010, any septic issue is a potential hazard to the watershed.
“We can concentrate on an area in the plan with a lot of septic problems, and then determine what we can do to alleviate the problem,” she said.
Several of the residents in attendance asked questions and expressed concerns that any problems or issues included in the plan would have an adverse impact on those in the 86 square miles of land covered by the watershed.
Some also asked if requirements added to the plan would be punishable offenses if violated once the plan is implemented.
Laura Lewis of Ellsworth came to Tuesday’s meeting because she had questions about how implementation of the plan could impact her family’s farm.
“If you take this at face value, that it’s going to help, then I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “I just hope it doesn’t turn into a bunch of regulations.”
Kirsten Peetz, environmental land manager for Mill Creek MetroParks, said the only things that would have the potential for regulation would be issues already regulated by the state, such as sanitary issues.
Peetz said any other inclusions would be proactive measures residents could take to make the water safer and cleaner by diminishing problems that were identified during the information-gathering process.
“This planning process doesn’t give any enforcement power to the EPA,” she said. “It’s just specific issues targeting where the problems lie. If someone doesn’t become part of the process, they’re not helping the situation ... They’re not breaking any law.”