Stark News Details
Caring for the Nimishillen Watershed: Why it Matters - Part 1Posted Nov. 8, 2010
From the Canton Repository:
This is the first of three guest columns about the health of the Nimishillen Creek Watershed. The series will continue on CantonRep.com on Oct. 11 and Oct. 18.
Each Stark Countian, on average, uses 80 to 100 gallons of water every day. Do we know if that water is safe — free from contaminants that could harm us or those we love?
Stark County’s water is mostly supplied by the Nimishillen Creek Watershed, a 24.5-mile channel. Because water dissolves more substances than any other liquid, it carries chemicals, minerals and nutrients — some good, some bad — with it wherever it travels.
In other words, our water is polluted. If you’re looking for who is to blame, the answer is all of us. Everything from lawn fertilizers and failing septic tanks to runoff from farms and parking lots affects our water.
The majority of our drinking water comes from personal wells or from underground aquifers through treatment plants, so it is safe to drink. The Alliance area uses water from lake reservoirs that may be exposed to polluting algae, resulting in occasional advisories.
The Environmental Protection Agency suggests that you either limit or avoid eating various species of fish in our local waters. Keep in mind that some contaminants, such as mercury, can be deposited in the water source through the air, usually from power plants that are upwind from a watershed. Others, such as PCBs, can stay in the system for years, even decades, and may not be the result of current practices.
FACTORS IN OUR FAVOR
Realistically, our problems are not any worse than many other areas. Stark County residents are actually very fortunate, for three major reasons.
- First, we are located near the Great Lakes, a network of connected bodies of water containing one-fifth of the world’s fresh water and an invaluable resource under the protection of the Great Lakes Commission.
- Second, our main source of water, the Nimishillen Creek Watershed, is mainly contained in Stark County. Therefore, we can control and fix many of the issues affecting most of our communities.
- Third, a number of agencies regulate our water sources, protecting us from pollutants. EPA-mandated policies are carried out every second of every day. The Clean Water Act of 1972, spurred in part by the infamous burning of the Cuyahoga River, enforces quality standards for our water and controls its use in manufacturing, storm water management, sanitation and numerous other areas.
Penny Bernstein, Kent State University Stark Campus associate professor of biological sciences and coordinator of the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation Initiative in Environmental Media, reached out to many of these organizations to learn and promote communication between the university and these community partners and among the partners themselves.
She realized that working together and supporting one another, rather than overlapping or competing, is the most beneficial method for protecting our waterways and increasing the public’s awareness of how our actions affect the environment. “There are people who are taking care of our water through a large and often invisible network that resembles the intertwined water highways of the Nimishillen Watershed itself,” says Bernstein.
Many entities are moving toward this sort of collaborative effort — government, agriculture, business, manufacturing, individual communities and environmental organizations. Protecting Stark County’s waterways has become a more focused issue as a result.
According to Bernstein, people are coming together who would have never met before.
We all know that water is essential and precious, but we’ve taken it for granted that it would always be clean, safe and nourishing — no matter what we did to diminish its quality. We are rapidly learning that without action, that will no longer be the case. Life has changed, and we must change with it.
Now is the time to take responsibility for the problems that we created for our region’s waterways.
Coming Oct. 11: Problem areas and what is being done to restore them.
Written by Cynthia Williams, public relations coordinator for Kent State University at Stark. (Special to The Repository)