For every waterway that is polluted we all suffer the consequences and so does the wildlife.
While Lake Erie is a huge body of water, it cannot continue to provide millions of people with water suitable for drinking or for a healthy environment or strong economy without cooperation among the states, municipalities, businesses and people that rely on this precious resource.
As we explore Sixteenmile Creek and Twentymile Creek, the eastern most Pennsylvania Lake Erie major subwatersheds, the need for a consistent, uniform proactive approach to managing our shared water resource should once again be obvious.
Sixteenmile Creek and its tributaries drain 18. 8 square miles of land in three municipalities including Greenfield, and North East Townships and the Borough of North East. Twentymile Creek and its tributaries drain water from land in Chautauqua County, New York and 1.29 square miles of North East Township, Pennsylvania into the lake.
Grape vineyards dominate the headwater regions of the Sixteenmile Creek Watershed with increasing urbanization towards the lower stream reaches. Documented evidence of pollution impacts on Sixteenmile Creek are warning signs that preventative and corrective measures are needed to protect and improve water quality. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection lists Sixteenmile as an impaired stream due to siltation and Municipal Point Source pollution. Treated wastewater from two borough/township sewage treatment plants is discharged into the stream just south of where it enters Lake Erie at Freeport Beach.
Twentymile Creek is considered the largest stream to the east of the City of Erie in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Fish Commission stocks it annually with steelhead and trout and because the creek is an approved trout water, its fishing can be good throughout the year. Steelhead run into Twentymile all the way to New York.
Yet as more land is developed or converted to residential uses, more stress and direct impact on water quality and quantity is likely. Decisions about the location, density and type of land use affect the environment, economy and quality of life for all residents. Fortunately, many potential sources of pollution and flooding can be prevented or eliminated with watershed planning and active public participation.
Following the path of runoff from your roof or garden could help you realize that any fertilizers and chemicals you add to your landscape will eventually reach the closest stream. Faulty septic systems, wastewater plant combined sewer overflows, industrial spills and untreated agricultural and stormwater runoff are also problems that pollute our drinking water and make it dangerous for animals and for fishing and swimming.