Monday, March 10, 1997
Water wipes out
homes of wildlife

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The havoc the flood has wreaked on the homes and lives of Tristate residents is evident. But what may not be as obvious is the disruption caused to the habitats of aquatic life.

One of the more serious problems will be sediment.

''It buries their habitat and causes their death,'' said Riley Kinman, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

''There's going to be erosion from the massive force of this water and that's going to be destructive to various types of habitat,'' said Maleva Chamberlain, spokeswoman for the division of water at the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet.

As trees buckle when the soil is washed away, a bird's nest could be swept downstream, Ms. Chamberlain said.

But when those trees are washed off the banks, the water loses its shade and algae flourishes.

Algae is a problem, Ms. Chamberlain said, because it hoards the oxygen aquatic life needs

The eroded particles muddying the water will settle on the river beds, threatening the habitats of the crayfish and other crustaceans that make their homes on or near the riverbeds. Microorganisms serve as food for crustaceans which in turn serve as food for fish and larger aquatic life.

The water has not only picked up silt on its way through the Cincinnati area, it has also picked up trash, raw sewage and toxin-filled tanks.

That doesn't automatically spell trouble for wild and aquatic life.

''We have three or four rivers right now,'' said David Okerbloom, environmental specialist for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

''Even though we have a lot more toxins being dumped in it, we have a lot more water to dilute it,'' Mr. Okerbloom said.

Still, birds and animals could be at risk if they drink from an area where toxins, such as motor oil or raw sewage, are concentrated.

Despite the threat to home and health, environmental officials don't think there's a threat to the animal populations here.

''This is more of an acute situation. The river (and its aquatic life) will reclaim itself,'' Mr. Okerbloom said.