Bob Brown runs the City’s water reclamation facility and we’re fortunate that he does it so well. Trust me, there’s few things worse for a community than a wastewater plant gone bad. What we used to call the sewer plant he refers to as the water reclamation facility — which is frankly a much better term since that’s exactly what the plant does — it takes wastewater, cleans it out, and returns it to the river. That river connection is very important and Bob is our resident expert on river water quality. Bob told me that last week the Ohio EPA had gone fishing in our river.
I like to brag about how beautiful the Cuyahoga River is as it runs through downtown Kent. Take a 2 minute walk from downtown and you feel like you’re in the middle of the mountains seated next to a pristine river. That’s a rare combination and something we ought to be really proud of, because it hasn’t always been so.
I admit, like many people, my first memories of the Cuyahoga River was of it on fire. What an image. But it stands in stark contrast to the river today. Not only is it one of only 10 rivers designated as American Heritage Rivers, it’s also a great example of environmental stewardship.
Today’s river shows what can happen when communities work together, spend some money, and honor a commitment. Kent, with projects like the Dam and water reclamation improvements, is considered a model by the Ohio EPA for how to restore river quality through best management practices.
Part of the reason the river is where it is today is all the attention that local and state officials provide as they track the changes in river quality. It’s a testament to the old management adage, “that which gets measured, gets improved.”
The measures for a river include the extent and health of benthic and micro-organisms that constitute the primary source of food for aquatic life. Healthy benthic life makes for healthy fish, and the numbers of fish in the river are growing according to the Ohio EPA. Where the Cuyahoga used to be an “impaired” river when it comes to meeting the basic bio-criteria for a healthy river, most of it is now in full attainment.
So last week the Ohio EPA was counting the fish in the Kent portion of the Cuyahoga and I hope the results build on last year’s results (see below).
2006 Cuyahoga River Fish Community Survey Finds Significant Improvement
Last summer Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District personnel fished the mainstem of the Cuyahoga River upstream and downstream of their Southerly wastewater treatment plant discharge. Their survey found 34 species of fish, indicating that the fish community is reaching attainment with state biological criteria. For the first time, pollution-sensitive species such as flathead catfish and mimic shiner were found. Ohio EPA will be reviewing their data to confirm that this river segment is now in attainment with fish community goals.
Because Bob and his colleagues at the water reclamation plant do their job so well, you’ll likely rarely ever hear about them or have reason to read about them in the newspaper, and I’m sure they like it that way. But don’t let their quiet demeanor fool you, they are true professionals and we should all be grateful for all they do for us and the river. I’m sure the fish are.