Plan aims to improve quality of Blacklick Creek
A series of steps designed to improve, protect and restore Blacklick Creek so the water is safe for all has been created - and now it is up to central Ohio communities to help put the plan in action.
On June 28, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) unveiled its watershed action plan for Blacklick Creek. According to Kurt Keljo, watershed coordinator at MORPC, the plan was developed with the support of 24 communities and organizations under a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“My hope is that we can find ways to avert some of the problems we have created,” Keljo said. “A tremendous difference can be made by adjusting our practices.”
Keljo said the Blacklick Creek watershed is a treasure of a water resource that extends into four counties – Franklin, Licking, Delaware and Fairfield. Townships affected include Harlem, Monroe, Jersey, Plain, Jefferson., Truro, Etna, Madison and Violet. Other communities along the watershed include New Albany, Gahanna, Columbus, Reynoldsburg, Brice, Pickerington, Pataskala and Groveport.
“A watershed is basically the area of land that washes off into a particular stream,” Keljo said. Although most of the Blacklick Creek watershed is in Franklin County, he said, “Most of its surface water comes from feeder streams.”
Looking at the quality of Blacklick Creek, Keljo said studies conducted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have found that 47 percent of the area is rated as poor for fish or bug life; streams are not safe for swimming; and land development has altered the streams according to increased flows, polluted runoff, erosion and sediment on the stream bottom.
The watershed action plan created by MORPC outlines several different areas needing attention by area communities. They include:
• Agricultural practices – There are areas along Blacklick Creek with no buffer zones, so farm runoff goes directly into the creek. This is an issue in regard to chemicals as well as manure, Keljo said. One way to improve the agricultural practices is to encourage farmers to take advantage of federal education programs, he noted.
• Sewage/septic treatment systems – There are some areas of Blacklick Creek filled with soap suds on laundry day, because nearby home systems are not set up properly or hooked up to central sewer systems, Keljo noted. “We need to get these septic sewers set up right or hooked up to central sewer.”
• Creek restoration and protection – “Rather than building all around the creeks, let’s protect them,” Keljo said. Once 10 percent of a watershed is covered by hard surfaces, water quality is affected. When it reaches 25 percent, the watershed cannot support habitats, he said.
• Stormwater - “Our problem is that streams are dramatically affected by stormwater,” Keljo said. Unlike a gentle rainfall filling a creek from above, stormwater redirected from area neighborhoods moves faster, resulting in increased erosion and washing out more of the creek.
“We need to learn how to deal with the stormwater if we are going to help the water quality do well,” he said. “The more land you can protect, the less problems we are going to have with stormwater.”
He added he has also seen people dump paint, gas, soap and oil into storm sewers. “In all of these cases you are washing them right into the creek.”
Keljo said implementation of the plan is vital.
“It is one thing to have a plan, but a plan by itself doesn’t do us much good,” Keljo admitted.
That’s why MORPC’s first step will be to implement a water quality testing program, because it is the easiest and least expensive way to begin.
“Our objective is to find out if these things are still going on,” he said. “So we can have some sense of if it is getting better or worse.”
They will seek volunteers from the various communities to test the area creeks on a regular basis, providing researchers with the information they need to proceed and possibly help find other resources.
“There are a lot of different folks to get working together,” Keljo admitted. “Hopefully evenings like this are a beginning. That’s the next step – to make this thing happen.”
Anyone interested in helping to test area water quality on a regular basis should contact Kurt Keljo, watershed coordinator at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, at (614) 233-4209 or email@example.com.