Agencies: Many sources contribute to MetroParks lake pollution

YOUNGSTOWN — The Mahoning County District Board of Health today at a multi-agency forum announced the final results from it's 12-week water-testing program in Mill Creek MetroParks, which was initiated at the MetroParks' request after a massive fish kill in Lake Newport in June and subsequent testing found elevated levels of E. coli bacteria in the water.

Some takeaways from the program, according to information provided by the health board, are that weather conditions have a significant impact on bacteria levels; the Newport Wetlands area provides some form of bacterial cleanup; and that more than one factor contributes to water-pollution in the park.

The health board also stressed that the issue is watershed-wide, and not limited to the confines of the park.

Aaron Young, executive director of MCMP, said the three park lakes – which closed to the public in July due to uncertainty over pollution levels – likely will reopen next year, with advisories posted.

As for what can be done to lower pollution levels, the health board outlined a number of policy suggestions that include: the city provides the park system with discharge information related to its combined sewer overflows, until those are eliminated; the park system evaluates it's outhouses for water-tightness and monitors its wildlife activities; and county soil and water agency provides education and support for the agricultural industry; the county monitors discharges a the waste water treatment plant; and the health board continues with the household sewage treatment programs that already are in place.

Ryan Tekac, environmental health director for the county health board, emphasized the importance of community participation.

"We'll never get 100 percent, but we can get a lot better. The public has to participate," he said.

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