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How dirty is your river? Check this GPS enabled map

Marc Lefkowitz  |  01/21/13 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Clean water

What’s in your local creek or stream? Using the EPA “My Watershed” water quality report (with GPS), you can easily discover all you need to know about the water quality in your area. Like, is there bacteria or worse fouling up the water, killing fish and getting people sick?

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If you’re considering letting your dog jump into the river or your kid swim in a stream, you might want to first check the web map of “impaired waters”.

We did, and, last time EPA checked (2008) every major river and most minor streams in Northeast Ohio had some pollution. There were harmful bacteria in the Chagrin River near Eastlake, virus at Edgewater Beach, oil and grease and PCBs in the fish in Tinker’s Creek in Solon, ammonia and chlorine in the Rocky River and 100% of Doan Brook was unhealthy for fish.

Water pollution is an equal opportunity offender—it’s just as invisible but present in wealthy suburbs as the inner city. In fact, water pollution is almost assuredly growing in the new suburbs where (water-cleansing) wetlands are being destroyed, rivers shunted into pipes and forest paved over for more oil-soaked big lots, more houses using soaps and detergents, and more industry and illegal dumping.

What are “Impaired waters”? Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires States to use monitoring data and other information to develop a list waters that will not meet water quality standards for a particular pollutant. States must submit this list every two years. States must then develop Total Maximum Daily Loads to restore these waters.

In the 1980s, the EPA helped set up four Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) in Ohio for the Ashtabula, Black, Cuyahoga and Maumee rivers. These are the State's most polluted and environmentally impacted rivers which empty into Lake Erie.

Most RAPs call for putting an end to harmful practices like dumping oil in sewers, or to pitch in by picking up your dog’s poop. As important as individual good housekeeping—like switching to non-phosphorous soaps and being careful not to spill oil and solvents—can be, the big picture is where we need to focus. That's because the problem isn't so much from a pipe at the end of a industrial plant as it is everywhere in a watershed.

If we want to seriously tackle Northeast Ohio’s water pollution problem, it will require a regional land-use plan with watershed protection goals. And tax incentives that favor development near existing infrastructure. Sewage plants don’t catch and clean all of our toxic and bacteria-laden waste water. The municipalities in the 12-county Northeast Ohio region need to finally set a goal to adopt water stewardship practices such as planting native habitat. Updated codes that protect water quality such as downspout disconnection and keeping corridors around rivers and creeks natural should also get on the regional agenda.

“We can’t live without it. We have to have clean drinking water,” Amy Holtshouse Brennan, director of Chagrin River Watershed Partners sums it up in this month’s focus on clean water.

To understand the important goals for long-term clean water around Lake Erie, we invite you to check out the Clean Water Agenda page, and post a comment.

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8 years ago

Thanks for the follow-up. Does the Cleveland Metroparks publish a list of the pesticides and chemicals that it uses on its property? Also, did the Metroparks indicate why it has not adopted 100% "organic" practices for its properties?

Metroparks golf course practices
8 years ago

I shared your question with the Cleveland Metroparks, and here's the response from Sean McHugh, executive director of golf operations.

Cleveland Metroparks Golf Divisions practices the process of best management practices (bmp's).

We are not 100% organic, but we do use many organic products, such as turkey manure fertilizers along with synthetic fertilizers.

We use a buffer area of 50 feet around or near any body of water, such as the Rocky River.

The entire staff is required to be licensed by the State of Ohio to handle and spray pesticides.

Plant protectants are only used on an as needed basis (curative not preventative).

Each Cleveland Metroparks golf facility has a manager in place who is college educated in the practice of Turfgrass Management.

Also, much has been published at many universities regarding research that turfgrass is an excellent filter to guard against any leaching of fertilizer and pesticides.

8 years ago

Has the Cleveland Metroparks converted its golf courses to "organic" golf courses a la Vineyard Golf Club in Martha's Vineyard? If or to the extent that it has not, it seems inconsistent with the Cleveland Metroparks' mission of "conserve[ing] significant natural resources" to contribute to the pollution of the waterways near where its reservations and golf courses are located with pesticides.

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