HARRISON, Ohio – Recently a $158,469 nonpoint source pollution grant, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was awarded for the Whitewater River Watershed Project’s southern portion from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said technical coordinator Heather Wirth.
The grant will last for 27 months through March 2016. Nonpoint source pollution means it’s unclear what is causing pollution as opposed to specific companies dumping waste into streams.
The project’s goals are to monitor the water quality, increase community awareness and create a watershed management plan.
Its cost is estimated at $264,115. The remaining $105,646 will be in-kind matches, with time spent at meetings and cleanups and expertise from Soil and Water Conservation District personnel counted.
“These projects start with concerned citizens,” educational outreach coordinator Chelsea Tooley pointed out at a Feb. 21 meeting. Wirth began writing grant applications in 2010, the grant was awarded in late 2013 and Wirth and Tooley were hired in January.
The Whitewater River area is one of over 2,267 watersheds in the United States. According to Tooley, “It’s quite a large watershed,” located in four counties in two states: Franklin and Dearborn in Indiana and Butler and Hamilton in Ohio.
Many stream segments are listed by IDEM officials as being impaired. Tooley said, “In this area the most common forms of impairment are 20 for E. (Escherichia) coli,” a type of bacteria, mostly due to septic issues. Those streams are located south of Brookville, between Brookville and Oak Forest, from Whitcomb and Cedar Grove east to the state line, south of South Gate and between St. Leon and West Harrison. E. coli and dissolved oxygen due to soil drainage were found in six streams east and south of Brookville and also between Mount Carmel and West Harrison. Some pathogens were specific to an area.
“Are there worse streams?” she asked. “Absolutely.” This watershed “falls in the middle of the pollution range.”