YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – WKBN 27 Investigates recently hired an independent lab to test water at Lake Newport in Mill Creek Park for pollution.
The results may surprise you.
Heavy rains sent sewage into Lake Newport last week, causing a massive fish kill.
The sign that warns visitors about the potential for raw sewage is on the west side of the lake. On Tuesday, WKBN Investigative Reporter Amanda Smith took a water sample from the east side using a sterile bottle.
WKBN paid Cardinal Environmental to analyze the water. The results show a count of 3800 for fecal coliform bacteria.
“For swimming water, coliform counts should be no higher than 200 and 400 depending on the local ordinances,” Youngstown State University Biological Sciences Professor Chet Cooper said.
No one from Mill Creek Metroparks would speak to WKBN on camera Thursday, although a spokesperson did say state agencies have declared the water is safe for boating.
WKBN’s results were the first that Mill Creek officials had seen. No state agency had shared test data with the park.
Officials from the city of Youngstown and the Mahoning County District Board of Health were testing water at Lake Newport Thursday afternoon. Test results can vary by the time of day and location. They collected water from a half dozen sites on Thursday.
“That we don’t know yet and that’s what we are testing for, to see if it is consistent with the testing that is already previously done,” Mahoning County Health Supervisor Ryan Tekac said when asked if lake bacteria levels were still high.
Mahoning County Health Commissioner Patricia Sweeney said the district could examine the samples and, if the bacteria are too high, declare the lake a public health nuisance. But even that may not do much.
“We do not have enforcement power over the city, over the sewage, to make any of those changes. That is all in the purview of the Ohio EPA,” Sweeney said.
Heavy rains wash raw sewage into the lake several times a year.
“You really don’t want to be in that kind of water,” Cooper said. “If you are on top of the water, there is a little bit of risk,” Cooper said.
The EPA already knows about Youngstown’s sewer problems, and the city’s combined storm and sanitary sewer system is illegal.
But it could be years before anything is done to correct the issue because of the expense and tight budgets.
Professor Cooper said that if you do boat on Lake Newport, you should be careful not to touch your mouth, eyes, nose or ears until you have thoroughly washed your hands.