The Sandusky River Watershed Coalition has some major plans for the next several years and two grants to help pay for their projects.
A coalition partner, the National Center for Water Quality Research, has received two grants that will be implemented during the next five years:
• A grant of $896,970 will be used to study dissolved reactive phosphorus, a readily available source of food to algae blooms that plague streams, rivers, and Lake Erie. The grant provides funding for stratified soil testing throughout the watershed basin. Some of the funds may be used by the SRWC coordinator for education and outreach programs.
Grant funding comes from the Great Lakes Protection Fund.
In 1988, the Council of Great Lakes Governors and the Center for the Great Lakes developed a format for the Great Lakes Protection Fund, and the Great Lakes states pledged $97 million to create a permanent endowment.
• Another grant, for $899,938, will provide funding for incentive programs to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus infiltration within the Honey Creek watershed. A study of the stream and outreach programs by the coordinator will also be partially funded. The grant is from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As the SRWC concludes its 11th year, it can point to several accomplishments, said Cindy Brookes, coordinator.
The coalition has nearly finished work on an educational DVD, which will be distributed to schools.
Also, the coalition received a $6,100 grant from the American Water Co. to educate residents about the proper way to dispose of medications. Three medication disposal sites have been set around the watershed and the organization plans to hold three disposal collections next year.
The goal, Ms. Brookes said, is to reduce medication build-up in waterways and in home septic systems.
Coalition members will also be working with the Ohio EPA next year as the agency begins its Total Maximum Daily Load study, she said.
Four years ago the agency completed a preliminary study of the chemical, biological, and habitat conditions of the river and its tributaries and found the major causes of impairment were organic enrichment, excessive nutrients, bacteria, sedimentation, habitat degradation, and flow alteration due to streams being channeled.
Also, the entire the length of the Sandusky River was hit with a fish consumption advisory due to PCB and mercury contamination.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, the state is required to identify waters that don’t meet water quality standards and develop plans to bring them into compliance. A TMDL program determines the maximum amount of pollutants a waterway can receive on a daily basis without violating the standards. Pollution sources such as wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities as well as non-point sources like run-off from urban and agricultural areas are covered by the program.
The Sandusky River watershed drains an area of 1,850 square miles with 2,200 miles of streams, tributaries, and ditches. The EPA’s report area covers an area of 1,034 square miles. Surface waters in the area provide drinking water for about 136,180 residents, according to the EPA.