Two pollution monitoring stations have been installed along the Ottawa River so the Village can better track the condition of the water in the river as it enters and exits the Village. The stations were installed at the request of Village officials, who were acting on a recommendation from the Village's Environmental Task Force.
The task force was established early last year and was charged with further improving the Ottawa River and surrounding floodplains in Ottawa Hills.
Councilman Jeff Gibbs, a member of Village Council's Services and Environment Committee, is the chairman of the task force. When it was formed last year, Gibbs said improvement efforts for the river are the "lynch pin" of any plan to improve public lands in Ottawa Hills.
"Once we do that, we can do more on flora and fauna," Gibbs said.
The Task Force is charged with developing "an idea of what we can do to improve the health and quality of the river, and to improve the wildlife that use it," Gibbs said. "More natural, more beautiful, less maintenance."
One of the new monitoring stations is on the river just south of the Central Avenue bridge, while the other is near Secor Road, just west of where the Heldman ditch empties into the river near Edgevale Road. The stations were installed by the City of Toledo's Office of Environmental Services. Environmental Services has several dozen monitoring stations throughout Lucas County on a variety of ditches, creeks, streams, and rivers.
Prior to the installation of the new monitoring stations, the only data on the portion of the river that runs through the Village was from a monitoring station north of Wildwood MetroPark, near Sylvania Avenue, and another on Heldman Ditch just before it enters the river near Secor Road.
Officials were misinterpreting the readings from the Heldman Ditch as the conditions in the Ottawa River itself. In a recent Task Force Meeting, Village Councilman John Lewis noted, "we were concerned some of these readings, the e-coli readings, were higher on exit than entry (from the Village)."
While the health of the Ottawa River has been improving over the years, the condition of the Heldman Ditch is more of an unknown for the Village. Only a short portion of it, approximately 1,500 feet, is within the Village. The rest of the ditch goes under the University Parks Trail and into the woods north of Dorr Street, before continuing a south-westerly route.
Near the Village, the Heldman Ditch is fed by Smith Ditch, which stretches west, beyond King Road in Sylvania Township, as well as the Deline Ditch, which runs past Reynolds Road to Hill Avenue. The Heldman Ditch itself can be traced through south Toledo to west of Interstate 475, where the Kitzman, Newton, Peter May, and Zink Ditches, among others, empty into it.
"We are especially interested in nutrients, suspended solids, and bacteria," Task Force member Hans Gottgens said. A Village resident, Gottgens is also a member of the University of Toledo's Environmental Sciences department.
The Task Force discussed requesting additional monitoring stations late last year, and Village Administrator Marc Thompson and Gottgens met with city officials over the winter.
"They were very gracious and accommodated us, and before you know it, they did exactly what we asked them to do," Gottgens said. "Now it truly measures the inflow of the Ottawa into the Village and the outflow out of the Village. Now we will have good data."
The stations were installed in February.
"This river has made a great turn around from a toxic ditch to one that is a decent habitat with lots of fish species. We have found 50 species of fish, including trout, near UT and upstream (in Ottawa Hills)," Gottgens said.
"The current improvements in this river are the product of a lot of people doing a lot of things, some small, some large," he said. "A lot of things have been done in the river to improve its condition, like septic tanks have been removed, storm sewers have been removed, dams removed, habitat structures added, and farmers up stream have been working on conservation tillage."
In addition to Gibbs, Gottgens, and Lewis, the task force also consists of: Dan Schoeck, Sarah Mierzwiak, Ricky Becker, Ken Valuska, Richard Hylant, and Lori Fenton. Gottgens and Becker both have extensive education in subjects directly related to floodplain issues and have taught at the University of Toledo on related topics.