CITIZEN CONTACT: Amber Finkelstein

Ohio EPA Finds Exceptional Biology In Ohio River Tributaries; Announces Study Results from Scioto, Jackson and Lawrence Counties

Exceptional communities of fish and aquatic insects have been found at nearly two dozen sites on Ohio River tributaries in Scioto, Jackson and Lawrence counties, according to a new Ohio EPA biological and water quality study.

Ohio EPA sampled 31 streams in the area in 2010 and 2011, including Pine Creek, Ice Creek and the Little Scioto River. These waterways all drain into the Ohio River near Portsmouth.

The Agency found the biology was good at most of the sites studied. Of the 49 biological stations assessed, 31 sites (63 percent) were fully meeting the designated or recommended life use goals for fish and macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects and mussels). Another 10 sites (20 percent) were partially attaining those goals.

Specifically, fish fully attained biocriteria at 71 percent or 35 of the sites studied and partially attained such goals at another three sites. Six sites had exceptional fish communities, including Rocky Fork Little Scioto River. Stream habitat also was evaluated at all these locations and 96 percent of the sites scored well. In fact, 27 stream habitats were considered excellent.

As for the macroinvertebrate communities in the study area, 87 percent of the stations that were evaluated attained aquatic life use goals. The midge Xestochironomus subletti Borkent was collected from Pine Creek at Kelly’s Mill Road – the first time this type of midge has been collected in Ohio. Until now, it has only been collected from the southern United States from Texas to North Carolina.

The macroinvertebrate community performance was considered exceptional at 15 stations, very good at eight stations and good at 16 stations. The site with the highest total mayfly, stonefly and caddisfly populations (30 total) was the Little Scioto River site at Dixon Mill Road. This site also had one of the highest number of total pollution sensitive types of macroinvertebrates (28 types).

Where sites were not meeting their designated aquatic life uses, Ohio EPA determined that impairment was associated with acid mine drainage (e.g., low dissolved oxygen, low pH, and high metals concentrations); excessive sediment and silt; organic enrichment associated with unsewered communities and home sewage treatment systems (HSTS); and storm drainage from urban runoff. The recreation use was assessed at 24 sites within the watershed by sampling for E. coli bacteria. Eighteen of the 24 sites failed to meet the E. coli standard limits, indicating the recreation use was impaired. Various sources, including agriculture, unsewered areas and HSTS, along with municipal wastewater treatment plants, contributed to the impaired recreation use.

As part of Ohio EPA’s continuous effort to monitor and report on the quality of streams throughout Ohio, Ohio EPA employees collect chemical, physical and biological samples from dozens of sites in each study area. Ohio EPA analyzes information about the abundance and variety of fish and aquatic insects, especially those species sensitive to pollution, and the presence of bacteria, metals and nutrients. The Agency has one of the most advanced water quality monitoring programs in the nation, determining the health of rivers and streams by sampling stream biology and habitat in addition to water chemistry.

The Agency shares this information with local governments, landowners and citizens so they can develop plans to maintain and/or restore waterways impacted by identified sources of pollution. Sources could range from sewage treatment plants, industrial facilities and coal mines to low-head dams and urban and rural runoff. Stakeholders also can use the information to request assistance from Ohio EPA and other funding sources for projects that alleviate water quality problems and protect the resource for drinking water and recreational enjoyment. More information is available online about Ohio EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load Program.


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. In the past 40 years, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling. Ohio EPA -- 40 years and moving forward.

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