The St. Joseph River Basin Commission has published a report analyzing over a decade of water quality data collected by the Elkhart County Health Department as part of the Greater Elkhart County Stormwater Partnership’s long-term surface water monitoring program. The report focuses on long-term trends in water quality in major waterways throughout Elkhart County as well as comparisons of trends across testing sites.
The report is now available for public review. The report can be found online at https://sjrbc.com/resources/monitoring/index.html.
The Greater Elkhart County Stormwater Partnership is tasked with working to reduce pollutants carried by stormwater to Elkhart County’s waterways and uses surface monitoring each year during the growing season to identify areas of concern. With its urban and agricultural areas, the County has the potential to have a large impact on the health of waterways flowing to the Elkhart and St. Joseph Rivers and ultimately to the Great Lakes. E. coli and nutrient pollution (i.e., nitrogen and phosphorus) are known issues.
The report found that the percentage of samples exceeding the water quality standards for E. coli and Phosphorus is trending upwards over time. Turkey and Yellow Creek had E. coli levels 13,000 times the State standard for full-body contact recreation. These sites also had the highest Phosphorus levels of all sites sampled, exceeding the standard in 89% of 2021 samples. Yellow Creek and Turkey Creek, along with the streams that drain to them, emerged as areas of concern with regard to E. coli contamination and Phosphorus levels. Larger waterbodies like the Elkhart River and St. Joseph River had much lower instances of exceedance.
Sources of these contaminants in waterways include municipal, residential, commercial, and industrial areas. E. coli is an indicator of fecal contamination and is a public health concern as it can cause serious illness in humans. Phosphorus is an important nutrient for crops, but too much in streams can lead to excess plant growth, oxygen depletion, and fish kills. Continued monitoring of these sites will aid in identifying specific sources and eventual mitigation of the sources. Efforts are ongoing by the County government, municipal Stormwater Departments, and the Soil & Water Conservation District to address these water quality impairments in the short and long term.
“The work by the St. Joseph River Basin Commission to compile and analyze 12 years worth of water quality data is something the Stormwater Partnership has been working towards over the past five years” Jason Kauffman, City of Goshen Stormwater Coordinator, said. “This Report has helped the Stormwater Partnership better understand the water quality trends in our local waterways and will help guide future decisions. The work by Dr. Kate Barrett is greatly valued by the Stormwater Partnership and we are very thankful for all she has done.”
For questions on the Report please contact Dr. Kate Barrett at 574-287-1829 or firstname.lastname@example.org and for questions on the Greater Elkhart County Stormwater Partnership visit www.elkcoswcd.org/stormwater-partnership/ to find contact information for the staff person in your area.