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Caring for the Nimishillen Watershed: How Clean is the Water? - Part 2Posted Nov. 8, 2010
The next time you sip a glass of water, let the shower water cascade over your head or eat the bass you pulled out of your favorite local stream, think about the massive collaborative effort that goes into ensuring that you won’t become sick as a result.
In Stark County, most of our water originates in the Nimishillen Creek Watershed, a far-reaching web that touches nearly all of us daily.
As we’ve learned, decisions made in the industrial past have long-term ramifications. We always believed, and some still believe, that water would sustain the generations to come. However, this nonrenewable resource is on a constant cycle, making those of us who continue to take it for granted our own worst enemy.
It’s not only our health at stake. Eric Akin, the Upper Tuscarawas River Watershed coordinator, says, “By cleaning up our watersheds, we can promote economic development, opening up possibilities for new business.”
So, just how polluted is the Nimishillen? If a watershed site passes four benchmarks, it is in what is known as “full attainment” and safe. The 2009 Ohio Environmental Protection Agency report on Nimishillen Creek stated that only 13 percent of the sites were in full attainment, 32 percent were in partial attainment and 55 percent were in “nonattainment,” meeting none of the biological standards.
SOURCES OF POLLUTION
In this case, it is not drinking water standards but recreation (boating, fishing) and wildlife (fish and invertebrates) standards that we are failing. Contributing sources of pollution include storm water runoff and flooding, agricultural runoff, failing home sewage treatment systems and “ditching” (changing the course of a stream to improve drainage).
Each of these problems is regulated. Take storm water, for instance. During a quenching rain, the water hits the Earth and instantly joins our ecosystem, carrying toxins from our roofs, driveways, lawns, farm fields and parking lots into lakes, streams and sewer systems.
Several agencies collaborate on a program that includes educating citizens and developing practices to reduce pollutants in the runoff, but ultimately, storm water responsibility lies with our elected officials such as county commissioners, trustees and mayors. You can find storm water mandates on the Stark County government website under the Storm Water Management link.
Flooding is an issue for several Stark County areas. It became a major economic problem for Louisville in 2003, driving out some downtown businesses. The city’s solution was to build storm water retention basins, such as in the Stonebridge allotment off Route 44. The basin addresses flooding by containing storm runoff and releasing it slowly downstream.
The city also followed a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program to buy chronically flooded properties. Akin suggests floodplains be kept intact or restored, which reduces downstream flooding and slows down the water, allowing sediment to be filtered by vegetation.
Legislators, farmers and other individuals, as well as businesses, including manufacturers, are realizing that clean water is essential to our health, economy and secure future. The situation is improving — though, unfortunately, it’s in part due to industry departing. As we attract new businesses, we must make sure their practices protect the watershed.
Shearer’s Foods, for example, has developed a comprehensive energy management program consisting of landfill reduction, natural resource and energy conservation and sustainability training. Through a continuous rainwater recycle system, the company’s facility in Massillon is able to reclaim up to 17,000 gallons of water a month from the roof and reuse it. As The Repository reported in August, the company became the world’s first food manufacturer to achieve LEED platinum certification for its new Millennium facility in Massillon.
Stark County residents must make a conscious decision to stop polluting, understand how our behavior affects our waterways and realize that it can be improved only if everyone takes responsibility.
Coming Oct. 18: Local projects to protect our water, and tips on what you can do to help.
Written by Cynthia Williams, public relations coordinator for the Kent State University Stark Campus. (Special to The Repository) Kent Stark is home to the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation Initiative in Environmental Media, a collaboration with the University of Miami’s (Florida) Arnold Center for Confluent Media Studies.