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OEPA to test water quality of lower Mahoning



Published: Sun, February 3, 2013 @ 12:06 a.m.

By Susan Tebben

stebben@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Mahoning County residents will see more state trucks around the region during the summer as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency prepares to test the lower Mahoning River watershed and its tributaries.

The OEPA attended a meeting of the Environmental Planning Advisory Committee at Mill Creek Metroparks on Thursday, explaining what goes into testing water quality and a test of the total maximum daily load (TMDL) of streams within the lower Mahoning. The federal Clean Water Act calls for a TMDL for “impaired water bodies,” according to the OEPA.

EPAC is a subcommittee of the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, and Thursday’s meeting was meant to help local officials discussing storm- water and water quality with the public.

“A lot of people don’t understand that [sanitary] sewers don’t go directly to sewage plants, it goes straight to rivers and streams,” said Rachel McCartney, of Eastgate and the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund. “We’re hoping that the local community will start thinking about mainly the stormwater problems.”

Presentations at the meeting broke down the future plans for the TMDL and what the state is doing to keep the streams and rivers to legal standards.

“We test how [many pollutants] the stream can handle,” said Bill Zawiski, OEPA water quality manager, who was asked to speak at the meeting. “We collect samples of the water, we pick a landmark like a bridge where we’ll sample the water, and from that, we get information on how much water moves through the stream, its flow and the concentration at that site.”

From this data comes the TMDL, which is how the OEPA proposes to fix the problems with nutrient levels, flow pressure and wildlife population, Zawiski said.

“A healthy stream can handle floodwater better and handle sediment better,” Zawiski explained.

Several manmade factors can affect the water quality, including the presence of sewage-treatment plants and, a common occurrence in the studies the OEPA has already done, dams.

“Everywhere we have gone, anywhere there’s a dam on a flowing river, there’s an impairment,” Zawiski said.

The dams not only impair the levels of nutrients but also block fish movement. Generally in this area, dams were put in place to supply steel mills, which now are largely out of the area. More often than not, the OEPA recommends that dams be taken out of streams. One exception is when the dam is providing the water supply for a community, and it is not economically feasible to remove the dam.

Sampling season for the streams will be May through October, and now, the OEPA is preparing a study plan to find out the locations they will test, Zawiski said.

“We pick about 90 to 100 sites, and then the Columbus office tells us what resources we have available,” Zawiski said.

The TMDL will not take place until 2014 or 2015, but before it does, the OEPA will have public meetings to give residents an update on what’s going to happen in their neighborhoods. The OEPA also will work with local zoning offices for parts of the study they can’t conduct themselves. The public meetings and partnership with local zoning offices help keep awareness up about the testing and the benefits of the TMDL study.


Comments

1RobX(59 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

The reporter goofed. “A lot of people don’t understand that [sanitary] sewers don’t go directly to sewage plants, it goes straight to rivers and streams,” said Rachel McCartney...

No! Sanitary sewers carry toilet waste and go to sewage treatment plants. It's illegal to dump that raw sewage straight into rivers and streams.

Storm sewers carry rainwater runoff. Those are the ones that go straight to streams. The writer should not have inserted the word "[sanitary]".

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2juanita1944(34 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

test the sewage plant in girard at different hours....laughing...it stinks so bad you have to hold your nose when you drive past it...oepa....get to it i'll show you sewage that goes to the mahoning river....but do test girard water...i'm tired of my house water stinking....or burning my eyes when i take a shower....hurrrah....oepa...thank you...

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3hmm(182 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Every lowhead dam from downtown through lowellvile should be removed ..... They serve no purpose now

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4UticaShale(854 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Rob X, what she was trying to get across, (everyone knows sewer goes to the plant) was there exist many sewer overflows in the older systems of the Valley. Sewer from overflows go straight to the creeks and rivers.

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