Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

December 3, 2013

Whitewater River Watershed study begins

Diane Raver The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — The Southern Whitewater River Watershed was the topic of a meeting presented by Indiana Department of Environmental Management Office of Water Quality representatives Oct. 29 at Batesville Middle School. Another meeting was held earlier that day in Brookville.

“A watershed is an area of land that collects and drains water from high points (hills) to low points (valleys). When rain falls in a watershed, the water travels over natural and manmade terrain features toward the lowest point. Any area that drains water to one location is a watershed,” according to the IDEM Web site. It drains portions of Franklin, Ripley, Rush, Decatur, Union and Dearborn counties.

IDEM officials are planning a baseline study to characterize the condition of the watershed and gather more information to support a Total Maximum Daily Load document.

A TMDL is the maximum amount of a pollutant a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards, explained Staci Goodwin, senior TMDL project manager.

Environmental scientist Alison Meils said according to previous studies, 293 stream miles in the watershed are impaired. Referring to information IDEM officials submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Draft 2012 203(d), she revealed 232 miles contained E. coli; 125 miles, dissolved oxygen; 62 miles, polychlorinated biphenyl in fish tissue; and 46 miles, mercury.

Sampling for the TMDL project began in November and will conclude in October 2014. Chemical, physical, bateriological and biological data will be collected.

IDEM officials are also asking for help from the public on water quality data, possible pollution sources, conservation processes or projects that have improved water quality and other studies, the scientist announced.

Persons with information can contact Meils at 317-308-3204 or ameils@idem.IN.gov; goodwin at 317-308-3387 or sgoodwin@idem.IN.gov; or Kathleen Hagen, watershed specialist, at 317-308-3197 or khagen@idem.IN.gov.

A draft of the TMDL report will be completed in summer 2015. Then a stakeholder meeting will be held. After a 30-day comment period, the final draft will be submitted to the EPA in fall 2015.

Meils reported, “We will try to encompass everything in one document ... to characterize the watershed. Hopefully, the document can be a useful tool for watershed groups.”

Persons can keep updated on the project at www.in.gov/idem/nps/2652.htm. “The first postings will probably be sometime in February (2014),” the scientist revealed.

Diane Raver can be contacted at diane.raver@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.