Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Moving beyond PCBs: improving water quality in the Lower Fox River and Green Bay

Public has until July 26 to comment on the draft Total Maximum Daily Load

MADISON - The public has an opportunity to comment on a new report that explains efforts to improve water quality in the Lower Fox River and Lower Green Bay and tributary streams. Fourteen water bodies in this watershed do not currently meet water quality standards.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in conjunction with local stakeholders, has developed what is basically a “pollution budget,” for the Lower Fox River Basin and Lower Green Bay. Known as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), the plan establishes the total amount of phosphorus and total suspended solids that water bodies covered by the TMDL can receive and still meet water quality standards.

A public informational hearing to learn about the draft TMDL and to provide oral comments is set for July 12, 2010, in Grand Chute. People also may submit written and electronic comments through July 26, 2010, with details provided below.

“This is an important step forward in cleaning up the Lower Fox River and Green Bay,” says Bruce Baker, DNR’s top water quality official.

“In order to improve water quality, all sources of total phosphorus and total suspended solids will need to be reduced,” Baker says. “DNR will work together with stakeholders to find solutions and reduction strategies to meet the water quality goals of the TMDL in concert with the cost effective framework that is in the proposed phosphorus rules.”

The TMDL document details the amounts of phosphorus and total suspended solids each of those waters can receive and still meet water quality standards, and identifies the reductions needed from each source of those pollutants, says Nicole Clayton, DNR coordinator for the lower Fox River TMDL project.

“Once we determine the total amount of a pollutant a body of water can receive and still meet water quality standards, we can calculate needed reductions from specific sources,” she says.

Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient that also is found in soils, livestock manure, commercial fertilizers and wastewater discharges. It fuels algae and plant growth, sometimes leading to excessive levels of both. Total suspended solids include small particles of materials such as soil and leaves that get washed into streams and make the water look muddy and cloudy and degrade habitat for fish and other aquatic life. These pollutants reach rivers and streams from polluted runoff from farm fields, barnyards, residential yards and wastewater treatment plant discharges.

DNR developed the TMDL with help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a private consultant, the Cadmus Group, Inc., and with feedback from science, technical and outreach teams including various stakeholders groups and the public.

The goal for Lower Green Bay is to improve water clarity to support a diverse biological community and expand the area of beneficial bottom-dwelling plants. To meet established targets, a certain percentage reduction is needed in different types of pollutants. Upon reaching these goals the local streams and Green Bay will have better dissolved oxygen levels, less turbid water, and fewer algae blooms. This is expected to improve habitat for fish and aquatic life and improve recreational opportunities, Clayton says.

The public informational meeting begins at 1 p.m. Monday, July 12, at the Grand Chute Town Hall, 1900 Grand Chute Blvd.

As part of the review and submittal process for TMDLs, a 30-day public comment period runs through July 26, 2010. People may submit written or electronic comments to Nicole Clayton at the DNR, WT/3, 101 S. Webster, Madison, WI 53703 or

People can view the draft TMDL report and formal public notice on the DNR website.

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