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Published: Wednesday, 11/12/2008

State grant would target Maumee Bay State Park's cleanliness, safety

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Oregon is applying for a $62,400 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to help implement a plan to make Maumee Bay State Park's beaches cleaner and safer for swimming.

If the grant is approved, Oregon plans to buy 5.5 acres around Wolf Creek, a waterway that flows through the city and into the bay. The land would be used to widen the creek and create wetlands, which have been shown to naturally filter impurities from water.

Studies have found E. coli bacteria in the creek. The bacteria often contaminate the two beaches in the park. Last year, 12 swimming advisories were posted for the park's Lake Erie beach and seven for the inland beach. The advisories are triggered by high bacteria counts in the water.

Officials believe the bacteria may come from failed septic tanks, mainly from homes on the east side of Oregon where there is no public sewer system.

After purchasing the land around Wolf Creek, Oregon would expand the waterway and establish manmade wetlands. This would filter out and destroy the E. coli before it reaches the lake, city public service director Paul Roman said. The expansion would create shallower depths for the water in the creek to run through, exposing the contaminants to sunlight.

"When you have shallow pools of water, the sunlight will kill E. coli bacteria," Mr. Roman explained. "I do believe this would be a very efficient treatment system for the state park."

The project is part of a two-stage wetland restoration plan developed by a task force that includes representatives from the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, the Toledo/Lucas County Health Department, the city of Toledo, the city of Oregon, the University of Toledo, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Establishing wetlands along Wolf Creek is the first stage of the project. After that, the team wants to extend the wetlands further into the park.

Because Wolf Creek runs through Oregon, the city must take charge of buying the extra land needed for the project, Mr. Roman said. If it obtains the grant, the city will need to come up with matching funds. TMACOG is also applying for funds for the project and plans to contribute $18,700, said Kurt Erichsen, vice president of environmental planning for TMACOG.

The money would pay to buy the land and plan the wetlands.

However, the city and TMACOG would have to apply for more funding for the actual construction. Current estimates for the entire project run close to $3 million, although the eventual cost could be more, Mr. Erichsen said. Task force members still have to come up with ways to fund the project, so no date has yet been set for construction, he added.

Mr. Roman said the city had approached the owners of the parcels, which run along Corduroy and North Curtice roads. "I don't think they're too thrilled about it, but it's something they're willing to think about it," Mr. Roman said. He added that the city has the right to force a sale, "but we would prefer to come to an agreement."

However, at a city meeting last week, Oregon council member Jim Seaman expressed doubts about the plan. He said it would be easier for the city to ensure that people on the east side of Oregon maintain their septic tanks properly.

Mr. Roman replied that even with proper maintenance, septic tanks can fail. He said it could take years, and millions of dollars, to build a sanitary sewer system in that area of the city, which is mostly farmland. The wetland project would be the fastest and most efficient way to resolve the contamination problems, he said.

Mr. Erichsen said another source of E. coli contamination could also be fecal matter from wild animals and livestock that runs into Wolf Creek. He said the occasional flooding of Oregon's sanitary sewer system is not thought to contribute to bacteria levels in the creek.



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