Environment

More than 3,800 landowners to be assessed for creek cleanup

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A creek maintenance project that cuts across Wood County will affect the owners of more than 29,000 acres here that drain into the waterway. Wood County is working with Sandusky and Ottawa counties to clear blockages in the Toussaint Creek, which starts on the north side of Bowling Green, and winds its way north of Luckey on its way to Lake Erie. The total cost for the maintenance, which was petitioned by Wood County landowners, is about $860,000. The cost will be divided among landowners of acreage in the Toussaint Creek watershed area. More than 3,800 notices have been mailed out to the landowners who will be assessed, said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. The cost and acreage in each county is estimated as follows: 29,204 acres in Wood County, costing $608,000 7,763 acres in Sandusky County, costing $123,000 12,982 acres in Ottawa County, costing $131,000 Some people receiving the assessment notices may not even realize they are in the watershed, since the creek may not be visible from their property, Kalmar said. But that doesn’t mean it’s not draining into the waterway, he added. So far, 199 objections to the project or the assessments have been filed. The petition for the work, which is being handled by the soil and water districts of the three counties, asks for the removal of log jams and leaning trees along the creek. There will be no channelizing, or moving of dirt, Kalmar explained. A…


BG to use bugs to cut phosphorus

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is going to enlist the help of bugs to treat its wastewater. Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities, told city council Monday evening that the city would be paying $126,000 for a biological phosphorus removal project. The project will involve making changes to the aeration and “tricking” microscopic bugs already in to wastewater to eat the phosphorus before it leaves the plant. Phosphorus is one of the culprits blamed for the algal bloom crisis in Lake Erie in the summer of 2014. Phosphorus got to the lake from sources such as sewer plants, farm fields and lawn chemicals. According to O’Connell, by using a biological rather than chemical treatment, the water downstream will benefit. “We’re going to use the bugs in our wastewater plant to consume the phosphorus,” he said. The change is not being required by the Ohio EPA, but O’Connell said environmental regulations are all pointing in that direction. “We are trying to be proactive,” he said. O’Connell said after the meeting that the change should cut the phosphorus that leaves the plant in half. Also at Monday’s meeting, council approved plans for working with the Ohio Department of Transportation for resurfacing the city’s portion of Ohio 105 from Bowling Green’s east side to Ohio 199. During the citizen comments portion of the meeting, Diane Vogtsberger asked council questions about its plans to hire a consultant to do a site assessment of the green space on West Wooster…


Espen fearless in defense of environment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Brad Espen wouldn’t stand a chance in a popularity contest. He refused to budge for landowners protesting sewer lines. He stood eye to eye with federal officials delaying cleanup of hazardous materials. He was unapologetic when enforcing smoking bans. “I made my share of people mad, but when you know you’re doing the right thing, it kind of balanced things out,” said Espen, who will soon retire after 30 years in environmental health at Wood County Health District. “I was always trying to do the right thing.” Espen may have lacked popularity, but he was never short on persistence. One case in point would be the now demolished Victory Inn, in Bowling Green.  After countless inspections and violation reports, the hotel was finally shut down. “We just never gave up with that one,” he said. Espen started at the health department doing housing and restaurant inspections. He then went on to solid waste inspections, and eventually took over as director of environmental health. “I was always interested in the environment,” though he originally thought his career path would lead to work with wildlife and nature – not sewers and hazardous waste. He grew up in Bowling Green, being the sixth generation of his family here. “That’s part of the reason I care so deeply about my community.” Espen starts his days early, getting to work around 5 a.m. when the office is still quiet. From his office he has led crusades for sewers…


Stories to tell, water to save

Educator Laura Schetter brought a souvenir back from the Arctic Circle — a plastic water bottle. Schetter found the bottle on a beach that she expected to be pristine. Instead she found trash carried by the Gulf Stream to this most remote place. That’s just one of the stories she has to tell. Also this year she was in India studying yoga. In the village where she was staying she met the water granny, the elder who was charged with turning on and off the taps to each home daily, and making sure villagers didn’t waste the water. That water was precious. The lake the villagers had relied on had dried up as the climate has gotten warmer. An attempt to drill a conventional well had failed. So they needed a deeper well, cutting through rock. Schetter’s stories about water aren’t all from foreign lands. In the summer of 2014, a deadly algae bloom left the Toledo area, including Holland, Ohio where she lives, without water. All these stories got Schetter thinking about water, the way people depend on it and the way it connects them. She took her students from the Wildwood Environmental Academy where she is the environmental studies coordinator to the water, the nearby Maumee River and to the shore of Lake Erie. They tested the water, played along its banks and picked up trash. One student exclaimed after looking at the 80 pounds of trash they’d collected that he felt like he was doing something to help the…