Sen. Brown to propose law to improve Valley sewer systems

Sen. Sherrod Brown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Senator Sherrod Brown announced Friday that he will introduce a plan next week to help improve water quality, according to a press release from his office.

The release did not detail specifics of the plan, but hinted that it would help renovate outdated sewer systems.

Brown will announce the plan with Mill Creek Park Executive Director Aaron Young and Ohio Senator Joe Schiavoni Tuesday at Mill Creek Park. The release stated that a law that he is planning to propose “would improve water quality while keeping rates affordable for residents and small business.”

Heavy June rains forced water from the Youngstown city sewer system to flood into Lake Newport in Mill Creek Park. That water led to fish dying, with many of their carcasses floating to the lake’s surface.

That fish kill was the first indication of trouble at the park’s lakes.

WKBN had the water independently tested in early July, and a YSU professor analyzed the results, saying that the level of fecal coliform bacteria in the water was almost 10 times what it should be. A day after publishing those results, Mill Creek Park closed all its lakes indefinitely.

While the sewer outflows from the city of Youngstown are playing a part in the pollution, Young said it’s only one part of the puzzle that has to be solved.

“It is a much wider problem than just what is happening at the lakes,” Young said.

Park officials learned pollution is flowing into the lakes from different places throughout an 80-mile area, not just from the city sewer system.

“This is a really teachable moment for us to all understand that we play a role in the quality of our watershed. From farmers on down to what you do with your waste water, what you do with your oil,” Mahoning County Health Commissioner Pat Sweeney said.

Pollution from septic tanks, farms and yards runs into the waterways that feed Mill Creek Park. The EPA took water samples in 2011 and 2013 all through the watershed. Young said the results showed e. coli levels far higher than what was found at the lakes last week.

“You are not going to see the water quality improve until we start addressing the watershed as a whole,” Young said.

The Mahoning County Health Board has tested the water quality at the park every two weeks across multiple sites, with e. coli quantities at one of the locations remaining consistently above safe levels.

For tips on how you can help keep the Valley’s waterways pollution-free, check out WKBN’s Keep it Clean campaign.

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