HILLSDALE - Long-term testing of the Tiffin River watershed will begin this month, giving communities and environmental groups a first look at the quality of the area's water.
The two-year program, funded in part by a grant from the state of Michigan, will test for E. coli, phosphorous, and suspended solids, said Christie Cook, who's heading the sampling.
This will give researchers a clearer idea of what is entering the waterways, she said.
“The goal is really to create a baseline of the watershed's health, to get a really good picture,” said Ms. Cook, Rural Community Assistance Program coordinator at the Community Action Association in Hillsdale.
“We want to get a picture of what's going on now and what the changes will be in the next two years.”
Field samples will be taken from 14 sites, once a month throughout the year. In May and June, samples will be collected weekly, Ms. Cook said.
Eight random samples will be taken throughout the year.
Of the samples, two will be taken from the east branch of the St. Joseph's watershed in central Hillsdale County to be used for comparisons.
Once the study is completed, the information will be used to prioritize projects and conservation efforts.
The Tiffin River watershed includes Lime Creek and Bean Creek as well as their tributaries in southeastern Hillsdale County and southwestern Lenawee County.
The river is monitored closely in Ohio because it is a source of drinking water.
Archbold Village Administrator Dennis Howell said there is not much information available about the river's watershed.
Archbold residents pull their drinking water from the Tiffin River at a pumping station about six miles from the village, he said.
The water is then held in a reservoir before being treated.
“We monitor the quality of water very closely at that station so we don't add any elements into our reservoirs,” Mr. Howell said.
“We have not yet seen any deterioration in the quality of water coming downstream.”
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality awarded the $27,948 grant with the promise that local organizations and governments would kick in $24,582.
Stewart Bruinsma, owner of a large dairy farm in Morenci, said he fears that those in charge of the study are not impartial.
He is concerned that they believe large farms are the root of water quality problems.
Mr. Bruinsma, owner of 900 animals on Bruinsma Dairy Farm, is not in the Tiffin River watershed, but has felt the pressure of groups opposing large farms.
“The problem with the water testing is that there is no history of water quality in that watershed,” he said. “Whatever the results are, we don't know if the water quality is better or worse than it has been in the past.”
Ms. Cook said farmers should not worry about being targeted.
Instead, the study is a gathering of information
“We'll be looking as a matter of science about what the water quality is,” she said. “At this point, we just don't know.”