Preble County Commissioners met with officials from the Ohio EPA Wednesday, April 9, regarding elevated levels of the bacteria, Escherichia coli (E.coli) in surface water in test points in Twin and Lanier Townships, calling it a “public health nuisance.”
Morine Ware, an environmental specialist, stated upon routine inspection in 2009 in Glenwood, she “found the conditions that appeared to be sewage problems.”
Upon further testing and data collection, the acceptable E.coli count according to Ohio EPA standards, was significantly beyond the standard.
The samples taken at the testing point reached an excess of 120,980 E.coli cells per 100 mL of water. The standard E.coli count is 576 E.Coli cells per 100 mL of water.
This number, Jeff Reynolds with the Ohio Division of Surface Water calls “obscene.”
“Ohio EPA sampled tributaries of Bantas Fork in the community of Glenwood on Aug. 7, 2013 for E. coli bacteria. The results demonstrate that a public health nuisance does exist in Glenwood,” said a statement prepared by Martyn Burt, the Environmental Supervisor for the Division of Surface Water.
“On Nov. 19, 2009, Ohio EPA investigated the sewage disposal system for a mobile home park located on the east side of Quaker Trace Rd., approximately 100 feet south of State Route 35. Sewage odors were noted in the northeast corner of the site. Further investigation revealed sewage sludge downstream of the mobile home park at the sure 1200’ east of the intersection of Quaker Trace Rd and State Route 35, on the south side of US Route 35.”
“Any open stream is going to have some form of hazardous waste,” said Dina Pierce, Ohio EPA Media Relations Representative. Pierce said Preble County is at a higher risk for E.coli due to the rural-nature of the area. Preble County hosts not only older homes with failing septic systems, but also farm animals which can contribute to the fecal matter in streams due to runoff.
“What we find with these areas when they have a smaller lot size in the older homes, and in the older systems, and systems that aren’t up to standards, the Health Department is hamstrung with what they have an ability to do, especially with the smaller lots. As far as replacing those systems and getting something up to code, there’s not much they can do, and that’s when we come to conversations like this,” said Reynolds.
The E.coli bacteria “normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons,” according to the Ohio Department of Health.
To fix the issue, commissioners will be planning with the Ohio EPA regarding the replacement of septic tanks in the affected areas, or alternative options which can be costly. Once the source of the problem is located and resolved, the streams will begin to clean themselves. As the E.coli cells reach a larger body of water, the cells will dilute into their final destination, posing less of a threat.
Surface water testing, conducted by the Ohio EPA, can take up to two years to be completed.
Drinking water quality in the area has not been compromised, according to officials.