Monday, October 21, 2002

Checks: River quality improved

Improvements cited for drop in sewage detected

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

As the chilly weather brings boating season to a close, Cincinnati health officials report another good year for water quality along the Ohio River.

Of 28 weekly tests to check river water for fecal coliform, a measure of raw sewage bypassing treatment systems, only three weekly reports came back as "unhealthful" for recreational use - the same number as a year ago.

Meanwhile, water quality was deemed "moderate" for 14 weeks, an improvement from 17 weeks the year before. Water quality was rated "good" for 11 weeks.

The readings reflect what appears to be a permanent reduction in raw sewage reaching the Ohio River thanks to storm sewer improvements made along with the reconstruction of Fort Washington Way. A dry summer that helped reduce the amount of wastewater passing through treatment plants also helped.

Still, in 1998 - before the downtown improvements began - water quality reached unhealthful levels seven times, more than twice as often as this season.

"There have been continuous improvements to the system," said Malcolm Adcock, Cincinnati health commissioner. "I think those improvements are beginning to show the fruits of their labor."

The job isn't complete, however. Large rains still cause "combined sewer overflows" in which surges of storm water in pipes that also carry sewage allow untreated waste to bypass treatment plants.

The Metropolitan Sewer District continues work on a 25-year series of projects launched in 1995 to eliminate more than 200 combined sewer overflows within Hamilton County.

In Kentucky, Sanitation District No. 1 has prepared a storm water plan that brings 55 communities in Northern Kentucky into compliance with measures outlined in the Clean Water Act.

These measures are designed to reduce straight pipe and sewer overflow raw sewage contamination flowing into the Ohio.


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