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Great Lakes Article:

More Ohio waterways need cleanup
Report lists parts of Lake Erie shoreline, Maumee River
By Rachel Zinn
Toledo Blade
01/13/04


Linda Oros, an EPA spokesman, said the increase may not mean that Ohioís waterways are getting dirtier. The agency used additional criteria to classify water quality and had better samples to evaluate for the recent report.

"Itís hard to establish a trend in water quality right now," Ms. Oros said. "Some things have improved and some things have not."

The EPA evaluates the quality of Ohioís beaches, rivers, and creeks every two years using several measures, including bacteria levels.

In a list prioritizing cleanup projects, the western and central Lake Erie shorelines and the Sandusky River from its headwaters to Wyandot Countyís Broken Sword Creek ranked in the top 15 waterways that need improvement.

Two-thirds of the Ohio waters sampled did not meet state standards for recreational use because bacteria levels were too high, the report said.

One focus of bacteria sampling is public beaches. Most of Ohioís 22 Lake Erie beaches had safe bacteria counts, but eight of the beaches - including those at Camp Perry, Port Clinton, and Maumee Bay State Park - closed for more than 23 percent of the recreation season over the last five years because of high bacteria levels.

In Lucas County, officials have sought for years to determine the cause of high bacteria counts at Maumee Bay State Park. The counts have caused the park to post warnings at its Lake Erie beach and at its inland lake over the years.

"Itís not clear in many cases what the sources of the pathogens are that are contaminating the beaches. Narrowing down the sources in a particular area has been very challenging," said Dr. Jeffery Foran, president of Citizens for a Better Environment, an advocacy group for the Great Lakes region. A number of other northwest Ohio beaches, however, had few problems, including Crane Creek State Park, Kelleys Island State Park, and East Harbor State Park in Ottawa County.

Many northwest Ohio waterways, including part of the Maumee, Ottawa, Tiffin, and Auglaize rivers, have substandard water quality, according to the Ohio EPA.

Additional testing of some area waterways caused the state to conclude that they need cleanup as well. These include Wolf Creek; the Blanchard River between Hancock Countyís Ottawa Creek and Putnam Countyís Riley Creek; the Maumee River from Defiance to Henry Countyís South Turkeyfoot Creek; from Bad Creek in Fulton County to Seneca Countyís Beaver Creek, and most of the Portage River.

"We have a long way to go to improve our waterways," Keith Dimoff, assistant director of the Ohio Environmental Council, said.

In its recent report, the EPA judged water quality using fish consumption advisories, which are based on harmful chemicals found in fish. The agency did not use the advisories in its 2002 report, prompting criticism from environmental groups.

"We thought that fish advisories should be a reason to list waterways as unhealthy," Mr. Dimoff said. "Weíre very glad to see that the EPA now considers that."

The Ohio EPA is accepting public comments on the reportís draft through its web site at www.epa.state.oh.us/dsw. It will submit the final report to the U.S. EPA for approval in April.

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