7/20/20
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Ohio EPA Accepting Public Comments About Multi-Watershed Plan to Address Bacteria Impairments 

       
Ohio EPA is accepting public comments regarding a proposal to address bacteria contamination in streams around the state with a multi-watershed improvement plan. Comments will be accepted through Sept. 2, 2020.

The federal Clean Water Act requires states to prepare plans for watersheds that do not meet water quality goals. These plans, known as Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) reports, contain recommendations to address water quality impairments and restore streams to Clean Water Act goals.

The recreational use standard, which is based on bacteria levels, is one of the water quality goals Ohio waterways should meet. Rivers and streams should be safe for recreational activities such as swimming, wading, boating, canoeing, and kayaking.  

Ohio EPA conducts water quality studies across the state that includes sampling for bacteria. The Agency uses bacteria as an indicator of potential risk to pathogen exposure.  Common sources of bacteria in rivers and streams include discharges from wastewater treatment plants, failing home sewage treatment systems and unsewered communities, combined sewer overflows/sanitary sewer overflows, illicit discharges, livestock waste, and animal influences including migrating waterfowl.

The proposed approach would streamline bacteria TMDL development, allowing solutions to be designed and implemented for multiple watersheds at the same time rather than addressing watershed basins individually.

Currently, 77 percent of watersheds that have been studied by Ohio EPA do not meet recreational use standards due to bacteria contamination from human and/or animal waste. Ohio EPA has completed TMDL reports for 26 percent of these watersheds. The Agency plans to use the multi-watershed approach to develop TMDLs for another 31 percent of these watersheds. The list of watersheds is available here.

Ohio EPA will continue to monitor bacteria in streams to determine whether water quality is improving where TMDL recommendations are implemented.

Ohio EPA invites public comments on the multi-watershed bacteria TMDL project plan. Comments may be submitted to EPATMDL@epa.ohio.gov through Sept. 2, 2020. A fact sheet about the plan, including links to additional information, is available online.

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The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.

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