Keeping Hidden Valley Lake Clean

How regulations help keep our lake clean and chemical free –

Paradise Lake at Hidden Valley Lake, Indiana
Paradise Lake at Hidden Valley Lake, IN

We are lucky that there are no sewage plants, agricultural lots, or industries discharging pollutants upstream of our lake. If fact, most sources of point water pollution in the United States have been eliminated through the efforts of (and regulations initiated by) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Now, we deal with non-point sources of water pollution from diffuse sources including sedimentation from erosion, oxygen depletion from decaying yard waste, and algae blooms from excessive levels of chemical nutrients in our water.

Our water quality and storm water control responsibilities

In Indiana, water quality and storm water issues are overseen by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). As a non-urban area, we are classified as an MS4 community (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System). Regulations on MS4 communities require that we develop a plan that defines how we will minimize pollution in storm water runoff that enters our lake and affects our downstream neighbors. These are voluntary actions that focus on resident education, spill management training/preparation, proper maintenance of equipment and vehicles, minimization of runoff from construction sites and road salt, certification of pesticide/herbicide applicators, and the reduction of sedimentation and nutrient flows into our waters. We set goals in each of these areas and are audited on how well we meet those goals. Fines may be assessed by IDEM if we fail to do so. As a resident, it is your responsibility to follow the guidance advices even though these actions are not required in the HVL rules.

However, we all know people who litter, do not clean up after their pets, dump yard waste in the lake, or over-fertilize their yards – and these are minor inconveniences. It can be far worse where a profit motive is involved. Consider the folks who live in the coal mining regions primarily in the mountainous states in the eastern United States. There are no regulations in place that prevent mining companies from dumping spoils from strip mining in or near streams. These spoils contain natural methane and the fine coal dust particles that have been separated from lump coal by various washing methods that include surfactants and rinsing chemicals (some of which are toxic). A regulation developed by the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) – along with state regulators, mining companies and local communities – would have implemented testing and monitoring of stream conditions before, during, and after mining operations to provide data to detect problems that could arise and to help restore areas to previous conditions. That is all. It did not prevent any dumping of spoils into streams and did not impact employment opportunities in affected regions. This regulation which would have taken affect this month, was overturned by a joint resolution of congress in early February. Sad.

Now consider what could happen if regulations that affect our upstream neighbors were repealed. We could easily have animal waste products from farms flowing into the lake during rainstorms, upstream farmers and developers could use pesticides that are currently banned that would enter our ground water or runoff of our clay soils, developers could leave piles of dirt that wash down into our newly dredged lakes, etc. Do you think voluntary compliance would stop this?

HVL monitoring programs and resident cooperation

Your HVL staff will continue to monitor E. coli levels in the lake and hand out warning citations for not having silt fences when you, contractors, or landscapers disrupt the soil. We will continue to rely on you to voluntarily clean up after your pets, properly dispose of yard waste, and avoid using phosphate-containing fertilizers on your yard. I will continue to write monthly reminders that what you do matters.

Hopefully, we will not have to dredge the lakes and ponds again or close the lake if a blue-green algae bloom occurs.

Submitted by Linda Hartmann

Sources: page 160 and others

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