By Peter H. Milliken
E. coli bacteria counts in water samples taken from Mill Creek and some of its tributaries and from Lake Newport after Saturday’s rain were all above the potential health-hazard threshold, the Mahoning County Board of Health has reported.
The worst reading was 3,300 in one sample taken Monday at the East Newport Boat Launch on East Newport Drive, with the other sample there showing a count of 1,800.
The Ohio Environment Protection Agency says a count of 576 is the threshold, above which a potential public health hazard exists.
Nearly three-quarters of an inch of rain fell Saturday at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna, according to the National Weather Service.
Among the worst readings were at Old Calla Road and at Mill Creek Park’s Lake Newport boat-rental house, where both samples in each location exceeded 2,420 colony forming units of E. coli per 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) of water.
E. coli is found in the feces of humans and other mammals.
At the Smythe Island bridge in the Newport Wetlands, the numbers were 600 and 1,000, according to Wednesday’s announcement of results.
At the Shields Road bridge over Mill Creek, the numbers were 1,400 and 1,800.
In Mill Creek near U.S. Route 224, the counts were 700 and 1,000.
At U.S. Route 224, the Mill Creek tributary, known as Indian Run, which runs through Green, Canfield and Boardman townships, registered 1,300 and 1,500.
Another Mill Creek tributary, Anderson Run, which flows through Austintown, Canfield and Boardman townships, had readings of 900 and 1,000.
These results are from the 11th week of a 12-week sampling period, which will conclude next week.
“The results will then be analyzed in order to look for potential problem areas, as well as trends or correlations between weather and the levels of E. coli,” said Ryan Tekac, director of environmental health at the county BOH.
High E. coli readings after a massive Lake Newport fish kill caused the park administration to close lakes Newport, Cohasset and Glacier indefinitely to all recreational uses on July 10, and the lakes have remained closed since then.
The Ohio EPA said discharges of a mixture of storm water and sewage from Youngstown’s combined storm and sanitary sewer overflows after heavy rains in late June were the primary cause of the fish kill.
Two city CSOs discharge an average of 10 times a year each into Lake Newport, for an annual average combined total of 23 million gallons, according to Youngstown’s $147 million long-term plan to curtail its CSOs.
Besides the CSOs at Lake Newport, possible contributors to the E. coli count findings could be failing septic systems, agricultural and urban runoff and animal excrement, said Stephanie Dyer, environmental program manager at the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.
This week’s high readings follow the pattern of high readings park superintendent Aaron Young had earlier said occurs following rains that wash pollutants into park waters.
“We are seeing elevated E. coli within 48 hours of a significant rainfall. This further supports our previous assumption of water quality issues within the watershed and the challenges it presents,” Young said Wednesday.