Mill Creek Park lakes likely to remain closed for the rest of the summer
By Jordyn Grzelewski
The lakes in Mill Creek MetroParks likely will remain closed for the rest of the summer – and possibly longer, Executive Director Aaron Young said.
In a three-hour, closed-door session Thursday, Young met with officials from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Youngstown and Mahoning County health boards, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and the county engineer’s office to discuss water-quality issues in Mill Creek Park.
What came out of that meeting, Young said during a news conference after the session, is the understanding that the park’s water issues – brought to light after city and county tests found elevated levels of E. coli bacteria in the water after a massive fish kill, leading to the closure July 10 of the lakes – are part of broader watershed challenges in this area and throughout the state.
Also out of Thursday’s meeting came initial steps in a plan to establish the lakes’ baseline E. coli levels.
Officials plan to begin biweekly testing for E. coli in Lake Newport that likely will be conducted by the county board of health. Specific testing sites and the number of water samples that will be taken have yet to be determined.
Young and Sweeney stressed that although the poor water quality and fish kill have been attributed to a combined storm and sanitary sewer overflow from the city’s system, the problem is deeper and not isolated to the Mahoning Valley.
“We’re talking about a water body that is inherently challenged,” Young said.
“This is really a teachable moment,” Sweeney said. “We all play a role in the quality of our watershed.”
Officials also discussed possible solutions to the problem. The OEPA, for example, recommended that the park system remove its dams and offered financial help to do so, Young said.
Removal of the dams, however, would prevent recreational activities on the park’s waterways, Young said, and therefore isn’t a good option.
The OEPA also reportedly recommended that the park system dredge Lake Newport. Young said that while that measure would make recreational activities possible, it wouldn’t do much to improve water quality.
The city is planning an upgrade of its sewer system, which includes the elimination of CSO discharges into the park by 2033 at a cost of more than $46 million. The lengthy timeline for that project is partly due to lack of funding, city officials have said.