Ohio rivers and streams are getting cleaner, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says in a new draft report, but the improvement from 2010 to 2011 was minimal.
The state’s 1,538 watersheds showed a 1 percentage-point improvement — from 56.7 to 57.7 percent — in meeting water-quality standards.
That means that 43.3 percent of Ohio’s watersheds fail mandates to be fishable or swimmable under the federal Clean Water Act and are considered impaired.
The biggest problems are farm fertilizer and drainage from urban areas.
In all, 260 stream segments had improved and were removed from the impaired list, and 244 segments were added to the impaired list based on new data.
The agency is holding a public information meeting Jan. 11 on the so-called 2012 Integrated Report. The meeting will be held at 3 p.m. at the Ohio EPA’s offices, 50 W. Town St., Suite 700, Columbus. Those attending must provide photo identification.
The EPA will accept public comment about the report until Feb. 6.
Comments should be sent to email@example.com or Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water, Attention 303d comments, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus 43216. After considering the comments, the state must finalize its report and submit it to the U.S. EPA by April 1.
The state EPA’s new report looks at four aspects of the waterways: aquatic life, recreation, human health related to fish consumption and drinking water.
The report indicates which waters are meeting limits in the four categories and where improvements are needed.
Waterways are listed as impaired if they do not meet goals in one of the four areas, the EPA said.
If they are included on the state’s impaired list, additional study is mandated and a water-quality improvement plan must be prepared, spokeswoman Linda Oros said.
The state analyzed 100,000 water samples plus 26,000 fish tissue samples and 12,000 aquatic insects collected by state agencies and universities.
The EPA reported that 89 percent of Ohio’s 23 largest rivers, accounting for 1,200 miles, fully attain aquatic life standards.
The state’s goal is to get 100 percent compliance by 2020.
The current assessment is down from 93 percent in 2010, the EPA said. That’s because of recent state studies of three urbanized streams: the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland, the Scioto River in the Columbus area and the Great Miami River in the Dayton-Cincinnati area.
Those three rivers get significant volumes of treated sewage and other chemical-laced runoff and do not meet water-quality goals, despite significant improvements from the 1980s, the EPA said.
The major threat to human health is contaminants, including mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), in Ohio-caught fish, the report said.
Among the streams analyzed in 2011 were Killbuck Creek, which flows through Medina and Wayne counties. Individual stream reports are available at http://epa.ohio.gov/dsw/document_index/ psdindx.aspx.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.