waste treatment linked
Sewage from plant pollutes waters of Massies Creek
Massies Creek, a popular creek that winds through the Indian Mound
Reserve Park in Cedarville and empties into the Little Miami River south
of Yellow Springs, is currently seriously polluted with human waste, according
to recent EPA test results.
The fact is that raw sewage is rolling down the stream, said
Bruce Cornett of the Green Environmental Coalition on Tuesday. The
issue is that this is against the law. Somebodys responsible and
they need to stop it.
Test samples taken last Friday by the regional office of the Ohio Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) showed a bacteria count of 44,000 bacterial colonies
per 100 milliliters of water, according to Bruce Smith, environmental
specialist in the EPAs Division of Surface Water. The acceptable
level is approximately 1,000 colonies, he said.
This is an extremely elevated count, said Smith. Its
nowhere near what we have as a standard. The tests were taken 100
yards downstream from the Cedarville wastewater treatment plant, which
is located adjacent to Indian Mound State Park. The bacterial count taken
from a sample upstream of the treatment plant was 105 colonies, said Smith.
The high bacterial count was no surprise to those who live on Massies
Creek, according to Elizabeth Mersky, who has lived beside the creek for
20 years. A month ago, said Mersky, she first noticed the smell of sewage,
and was alerted by friends who frequent Indian Mound State Park to black,
dark-grey water with solid waste and toilet paper coming out of
the pipe into the creek at the park. (See Other Voices column, page 4)
At the park, the creek is well-used, said Mersky, and is a popular place
for hiking and fishing. Although she and others contacted local health
and environmental officials repeatedly over the past month, she said,
no action was taken until the EPAs test last Friday. In the meantime,
there have been no signs warning people not to use or walk in the creek.
Its unbelievable to me that this is knowingly going on. Im
very upset that no one has warned or notified us, said Mersky, who
said she has warned her neighbors who, like herself, have wells located
near the creek.
On Tuesday Deborah Leopold, director of Environmental Health at the Greene
County Combined Health District, said that the department received notice
of the EPA test results that morning. She stated that she and other health
officials were meeting that day to determine whether or not to post warning
Coming into direct contact with human feces can cause health problems,
said Leopold, who stated that feces carry bacteria as well as viruses.
The contamination became noticeable the same time Cedarville University
students returned to classes at the beginning of September, said Smith,
who believes the contamination resulted from the Cedarville wastewater
treatment plants inability to treat the increased volume of flow
when school is in session.
Weve known for some time that the treatment plant is inadequate,
and there has been some momentum to correct the situation, he said.
But its never been this bad.
When school is out of session, the Cedarville plant treats the flow of
the villages 2,100 residents, said Smith. When school is in session,
the number is increased by approximately 3,000 students.
The treatment plants overseer, the Greene County Department of Sanitary
Engineering, submitted to the regional EPA office a plan for the construction
of a new Cedarville plant about two years ago, said Smith, who stated
that the plan was held up because the sanitary engineering departments
application for a low-interest loan required considerable paperwork.
It was not an apparent crisis, said Smith. In hindsight,
that was not the best judgement.
The treatment plants ongoing deficiencies may have been exacerbated
by the opening this year of two new Cedarville University dormitories,
which added 300 students to university housing, said Smith. According
to the Cedarville University public relations office, the students are
a combination of new students and underclassmen who in previous years
might have lived off-campus, but are now required to live on-campus.
There is only one long-term solution to the contamination, said Smith,
and that solution is the construction of a new treatment plant. While
the agency will move ahead expeditiously with that plan, it
will probably be 18 months to two years before completion, he said.
In the meantime, we will continue to operate the facility the best
we can with what we have, said Jeff Hissong, Director of Sanitary
Engineering for the Greene County Department of Sanitary Engineering.
Were not ignoring the situation. Were doing the best
we can do.
But continuing business as usual at the Cedarville treatment plant should
not be considered an option, said Cornett. Theres only one
solution and thats to cut down the flow. If it means closing down
dorms at Cedarville, thats what needs to be done.
If the present situation continues, said Cornett, Someone will take
the initiative to see what the courts have to say.
For Liz Mersky, the current situation at Massies Creek is unacceptable.
I dont care who did it or why, I just want it to stop,
she said. I dont want people hurt. And this is an incredible
wildlife area. Animals are drinking this water.