Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

June 17, 2013

Not always a bad thing

Floods offer an ecological reset button

(Continued)

“Erosion is a concern for us — probably one of the main factors in Indiana is the amount of soil sediment that gets into our rivers,” he said. Several programs exist to preserve topsoil in Indiana, from construction rules to a Soil & Water Preservation District office in every county.

In the wake of flooding in Indiana, there is no mandated testing protocol, no required research to assess any damage to the ecosystem.

But the DNR does assess one important aspect of stream health, by testing the flesh of fish for certain toxic metals and contaminants, particularly polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs, cancer-causing industrial compounds which have been banned since the 1970s.

Two of the 12 most heavily contaminated streams in Indiana are in Howard County. The Wildcat Creek, downstream of the Indiana American Water Company dam near Carter Street and U.S. 31, has a Level 5 fish consumption advisory, with fish in that stretch of stream — all the way to the western edge of Howard County — deemed unsafe to eat.

The Kokomo Creek in urban Kokomo, from U.S. 31 to the creek’s junction with the Wildcat, has the same level advisory. The former Continental Steel plant is just one of the suspected sources of the PCBs which contaminate the fish here.

But with close to $80 million spent over the past decade cleaning up the land and water around the old steel factory, there’s hope that Kokomo’s long history of environmental issues could be coming to an end.

Jim Stahl, a senior environmental manager at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, will be part of a team coming to Kokomo this summer to test the fish.

Using electric cables, they’ll be shocking fish, dividing the catch up by species, and then testing the flesh for different contaminants.

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