Lime Lake, Lime Creek water quality

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Surface water contamination is nothing new in the Lime Lake area of Hillsdale County, north of Waldron.

State officials have known about sewage flowing into the lake from the Prattville Drain for more than 30 years.

However, another source of bacteria in area waterways isn’t from humans. Evidence is pointing toward agricultural practices as a contributing factor.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hopes to take a large part of the human element out of the picture with a sewer project scheduled for Prattville and the residences surrounding Lime Lake next summer.

With the Prattville Drain cleaned up, investigators will be able to narrow the search for pollutants to discharges from field tile.

DEQ officials met at the Wright-Waldron Township Hall Dec. 16 for a public information meeting about the results of their studies and their plans for the future.

Establishing levels

Because Prattville Drain and Lime Lake have historically failed to meet water quality standards based on the federal Clean Water Act, the area was listed in 1998 for a TMDL study. The TMDL determines an allowable level of pollutants that a water body can handle before quality standards are exceeded.

The preliminary study got underway in the spring. Additional monitoring by the DEQ will resume after the Prattville sewer project is completed, however, two on-going studies by other groups continue to collect data from the area.

“In general, we have more than just a human problem [in Lime Creek],” said Christine Thelen, an aquatic biologist with the DEQ’s Surface Water Quality Assessment office. “We can’t pinpoint a source, but we’ve found consistently high concentrations.”

The DEQ monitored water conditions at nine locations from May through August. Four stations were on Lime Lake, one was at the Prattville Drain, and four were on Lime Creek—both above and below Lime Lake.

Levels of E. coli bacteria were determined from water samples taken at the collection points. The bacteria is associated with the feces of warm-blooded animals, and serves as an indicator of other harmful microorganisms.

To meet water quality standards for full body contact, E. coli must not exceed 130 per 100 ml of water, as indicated by a 30-day geometric mean.

The presence of E. coli is extremely variable, Thelen said, and the geometric mean reduces the effects of extremely low and high readings.

“It folds the extreme values toward the center to give a more accurate picture of what’s going on,” she said.

LIME CREEK—Bacterial counts were generally higher above the lake, reaching a mean high of 4,837 in July. Samples from Lime Creek at Lime Lake Road (above the lake) were second in contaminants only to the Prattville Drain. Thirty-day means were above 1,000 E. coli per 100 ml for six consecutive weeks. Daily means were higher than 10,000 on six occasions in July.

PRATTVILLE DRAIN—At the Young Drive inlet to Lime Lake, 30-day means ranged from 243 in August to 9,849 in July. Readings exceeded 1,000 for seven consecutive weeks. Two sampling events in July produced daily means exceeding 100,000 per 100 ml.

LIME LAKE—Conditions in the lake generally meet water quality standards. The total body contact standard was exceeded only once.

Sources

By plotting bacteria concentrations to rainfall, researchers determined there are both dry weather sources (illicit connections, such as sewage drains) and wet weather sources (surface runoff from farm fields through tile and drains).

A summary of the study presented by the DEQ states, “Besides human sources, other potential sources of E. coli are likely agricultural given the land use in the watershed.”

Owners of one large dairy in the study area, Vreba-Hoff II, will soon need to apply for a federal discharge permit and submit a management plan for minimizing pollution from handling dairy feces.

The report makes note of the potential discharge of wastes through field tile after manure is sprayed or injected into soil.

A DNA analysis was undertaken with two samples to determine the source of the bacteria. Both human and non-human sources were present in samples from Lime Creek above the lake. Below the lake, at US-127, only non-human sources were indicated.

Researchers are attempting to give species-specific results, Thelen said, [human vs. cow vs. goose, etc.] but it’s not very conclusive at this point. Determining human vs. non-human origins, however, is very reliable.

Thelen said the next step for her agency is to submit the report to the U.S. EPA for approval. If accepted, an implementation plan will be developed and put into action within two years.

Bean Creek is next

The Lime Creek study started on schedule in 2002. Next year, it’s time for a similar study on Bean Creek.

An information meeting is scheduled by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at 10 a.m. Jan. 28 in Hudson City Hall.

Christine Thelen of the DEQ’s Surface Water Quality Assessment office, refers to the event as an informal stakeholder meeting for city and township officials, area farmers, and any others interested in the study.

Contamination problems have been detected in Bean Creek in the Hudson vicinity, Thelen said, although there is no particular area of concern.

Sources of contamination will be sought in an area reaching from Beecher Road south to Lowe Road.

The water quality of Black Creek is scheduled for study in 2005. The creek flows into and out of Lake Hudson, passes through Weston and south of Jasper on its way to the River Raisin.

Monitoring stations will be set up in various locations for both studies, similar to the work done in the Lime Creek project described above.

     - Dec. 24, 2002

Bean Creek is next

The Lime Creek study started on schedule in 2002. Next year, it’s time for a similar study on Bean Creek.

An information meeting is scheduled by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at 10 a.m. Jan. 28 in Hudson City Hall.

Christine Thelen of the DEQ’s Surface Water Quality Assessment office, refers to the event as an informal stakeholder meeting for city and township officials, area farmers, and any others interested in the study.

Contamination problems have been detected in Bean Creek in the Hudson vicinity, Thelen said, although there is no particular area of concern.

Sources of contamination will be sought in an area reaching from Beecher Road south to Lowe Road.

The water quality of Black Creek is scheduled for study in 2005. The creek flows into and out of Lake Hudson, passes through Weston and south of Jasper on its way to the River Raisin.

Monitoring stations will be set up in various locations for both studies, similar to the work done in the Lime Creek project described above.

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