WKBN Investigation: E. Coli found in local waterways near treatment plants

youngstown, ohio sanitary sewers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – After WKBN paid an independent lab to test water from Mill Creek MetroParks, we started questioning the safety of other water in the region.

Wednesday, First News reporter Amanda Smith downloaded data from the federal EPA from this week and learned some surprising details.

Three waterways in Mahoning County have tested positive for E.Coli bacteria since January of 2014. All of those sites were just downstream from waste water treatment plants, according to discharge permits issued by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“The permits from the EPA are basically permits to pollute. They set upper levels on some of these things,” YSU Geology Professor Ray Beiersdorfer said. “This is based on studies, looking at how much is going to be an impact on the environment, on humans.”

The EPA says they detected amounts of E.coli 15 times greater than the allowable limit downstream from the New Middletown treatment plant in 2015.

In Lowellville, the sewage treatment plant has been in violation for years. That sewage treatment plant, like many others in the area, was built and designed before the creation of the EPA. That means it was never intended to meet modern pollution standards.

“They have to update their waste water treatment plants and expand it to absorb the outside conditions that are now flowing into our streams,” Stephanie Dyer with the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

Developments in the suburbs end up putting more stress on aging sewer plants.

“Water doesn’t care about what township you live in. Or what city you live in. Its all about a watershed and topography,” Dyer said.

After E. coli levels closed Mill Creek Park’s waterways, WKBN asked the Ohio EPA for its data on local water quality but has yet to receive that information.

See the map below for the violations of waste water treatment plants near you. An earlier version of this story referred to the plants in the map as “water treatment plants.” An earlier version of the map below included a plant that was not a waste water treatment plant. We regret the errors.

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