Guest Column – August 2020

BCRSD Active Involvement

The Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) was awarded a grant in March from the Regional Opportunities Initiatives, Inc. (ROI). The grant was issued at no cost to Brown County through the ROI’s Ready Communities Initiative. The ROI grant enabled the BCRSD to retain a professional engineering company to evaluate water quality issues in the streams and tributaries throughout Brown County.  The project is a comprehensive wastewater infrastructure strategic engineering evaluation of onsite septic treatment systems. Lochmueller Group, a multi-disciplined engineering firm from Indianapolis, began its work in April, 2020.  The engineering study includes sampling and analysis of surface waters to determine the source characteristics of E. coli contamination.  The study will evaluate options for improving wastewater management practices for residential properties and commercial businesses.  The Lochmueller project team has also started to investigate onsite wastewater management best practices of other counties. The strategic planning and engineering study will be completed in 2021.

Thirty-one (31) locations throughout the Bean Blossom Creek and Salt Creek watersheds of Brown County were sampled by the Lochmueller team and analyzed during May and June, 2020, for E. coli contamination. In adherence to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) standards of performance, five samples were collected for each location at 1-week intervals during May and June.  E. coli analysis was performed by Elements Lab, a microbiology laboratory located in Columbus, Indiana.  Eleven (11) locations in the Bean Blossom Creek watershed, which feeds Lake Lemon, were determined to exceed IDEM water quality standards for E. coli.  Twelve (12) locations in the Salt Creek watershed, which feeds Lake Monroe, were determined to exceed IDEM water quality standards for E. coli.  IDEM standards are established for surface water based on geometric mean levels of five (5) consecutive samples of not more than 125 coliform forming units per 100 milliliters. Based on the geometric mean results and other characteristics for each location, BCRSD and the Lochmueller project team have identified eighteen (18) of the initial sampling locations for additional analysis needed to determine the origin of the E. coli.  During this fall, 2020, these 20 locations will be sampled and analyzed using eDNA analysis for human versus animal E. coli concentrations.

There are many pathways by which E. coli enter our waters. Septic systems falling into disrepair and straight pipes from residential wastewater discharging directly to creeks and ponds are known sources of human E. coli contamination. Also, wastes from wildlife and from farm animals are known sources for animal E. coli contamination. The stream sampling program being conducted by BCRSD and the Lochmueller Group has been designed to determine E. coli levels in the streams and to differentiate between human versus animal E. coli contamination.

BCRSD and Lochmueller Group are working with the Lake Monroe Watershed Management team.  The Lake Monroe team is an investigative group formed under a US EPA Section 319 Grant to study concerns over algal blooms and the presence of E. coli in Lake Monroe. Our professional consultants continue to share data and lessons learned with the Lake Monroe Watershed Management team, including the IU’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, to maximize everyone’s understanding of water quality issues.

With Lochmueller project team’s able engineering assistance, BCRSD is preparing Story Maps for informing the public of sampling results and the ease of understanding various data.  The Story Maps will provide a visual and descriptive verbiage presentation of data collected of both Bean Blossom Creek and Salt Creek watersheds and their respective sub-watersheds.  Data will include septic density, housing density, livestock density, soils, and historic water quality information.

Showcasing Brown County’s outdoor assets and the beauty of its natural environment is key to sustaining the vibrancy of our County.  The need for a clean, usable, enjoyable, healthy, and safe natural environment is broadly recognized by most as a high priority for Brown County.  Natural assets provide improved quality of life for all residents and also enhance the potential for tourism and recreation which supports our local economy.  Brown County residents deserve a clean natural environment, safe for our children, families and tourists alike to live and recreate without risk from enteric diseases caused by polluted soils, surface waters and groundwater. 

Submitted by:

Clint Studabaker, BCRSD VP and Project Manager

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