What are you doing to ensure the water, which drains from the building and property where you live, or where you work or where you go to school, is not polluting the source of your drinking water?
Whether you use groundwater, a well, or surface water, a river or lake, it’s all connected. So learning more about human activities that harm or protect entire watersheds should be your first course of action.
This week’s Lake Erie connections are Trout Run and Godfrey Run. Combined, these two subwatersheds drain approximately 9.24 square miles of land located in Fairview Township, Girard Township and Borough and McKean Township. They drain directly into Lake Erie they play an important role for the millions of people who use the Lake as their source for drinking water, swimming and recreation.
Because Godfrey and Trout Run serve an important role in the region’s fishery, they also play an important economic role for Erie County. Both are nursery waters for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and while fishing in the creeks is prohibited, there is excellent steelhead and walleye fishing at the mouths of these two very popular streams when lake conditions are favorable.
Thanks to the Erie County Conservation District and three property owners that partnered with them, over 1300 feet of streambank have been protected and/or stabilized, and greater than an acre of riparian buffer was reestablished along the Godfrey Run corridor. This will keep over 85 tons of sediment from entering the stream annually. But it will take more citizens willing to make more corrections just like these as well other actions to improve the water quality throughout these watersheds and ultimately Lake Erie. For example, it will take measures to protect still undisturbed natural areas, which in the long run is one of the best and least costly solutions for protecting water quality.
The results and observation from past sampling efforts for these two tributaries show biological and habitat degradation and temperature issues. Bacteriologic samples taken at Trout Run showed E-coli from human waste is making its way to the stream and entering the lake. This could possibly be raising E-coli counts that close Presque Isle beaches. Other research is finding chemicals used in pharmaceuticals and personal care products in area waterways (visit http://www.paseagrant.org/topics/toxins/ for more information). While more research is needed, likely culprits are septic systems and wastewater treatment plants, neither of which removes these chemicals before they reach waterways.
The water quality in the Trout Run and Godfrey Run watersheds is not what it should be. But you can make a difference by learning more about these problems. Your involvement is needed to fix and avoid serious problems that affect groundwater, streams and Lake Erie. Reducing and eliminating the sources of human pathogens and other pollution will require cooperative efforts among municipal, county, state and federal agencies, as well as developers and residents.
Smart growth development, stream bank restoration, installation and protection of existing riparian buffer strips along the streams, storm water retrofits, septic and sewer system maintenance, regular testing, and education are the most cost-effective ways to reduce the sources of pollution and flooding. Water use must be evaluated for its impact on entire watersheds, not just the immediate area.