Fighting floods means cleaner lake

PERKINS TWP. The EPA also has stake in Erie County officials' consideration of ways to
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



The EPA also has stake in Erie County officials’ consideration of ways to deal with flooding.

Although the need to control flooding has focused attention on whether Erie County should set up a storm water drainage utility district, such a district might also help Erie County deal with water pollution woes.

The Erie County Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the feasibility of such a district when they meet at 9 a.m. Thursday at the County Service Center, 2900 Columbus Ave.

Dealing with high volumes of rainwater is linked closely to efforts to control water pollution, said Eric Dodrill, district director for the Erie Soil and Water Conservation District.

“It only makes sense when you talk about water quantity to talk about water quality,” Dodrill said.

Flooded with pollution

After the heavy rains that fell a few weeks ago, bacteria counts rose sharply when the Erie County Health Department took water samples at Erie County beaches.

But that was no surprise. In some cases during the recent storms, officials actually had to release dirty water to prevent worse flooding.

For example, when the Plum Brook Wastewater Pump Station near Griffing Airport was overwhelmed, untreated water was released into a ditch to flow into Sandusky Bay to keep water from backing up into people’s homes, explained county Sanitary Engineer Jack Meyers.

When such releases of water occur, Erie County is required to notify the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA keeps a record of such phone calls, Meyers said.

Reducing runoff

Dodrill says any flood district  Erie County creates is  likely to resemble one created in Lake County about four years ago.

Residents in the areas of Lake County that belong to the district pay $30 a year to keep the department going.

“People are really in tune for the need to manage storm water for both quality and quantity,” said Keith Jones, director of the department.

He said he spends much of his time pointing out that if water is held back and allowed to soak into the ground rather than run off, the quality of the water improves.

“You get the cleansing action of plants in the soil,” Jones said.

He said much of the impetus for creating his department came from the need to comply with the EPA’s Phase II regulations. The regulations are issued by the federal EPA but are enforced by Ohio’s EPA.

The Phase II rules deal with water pollution produced by runoff from farm fields, construction sites, parking lots and other areas where water can pick up chemicals, Dodrill said.

He said his agency has been filing the Phase II reports for Erie County to the EPA.

Phase I of the EPA’s regulations for control of runoff-generated water pollution concentrated in big cities such as Cleveland, said Dina Pierce, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Phase II is concentrating on other areas of the state, such as Erie County, she said.