|INTERVIEW with Matt Adkins, NonPoint Pollution Control Program Coordinator, Division of Soil and Water Conservation
What do you do to protect and improve Ohio’s coastal region?
I coordinate the development and implementation of Ohio’s Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program in the Lake Erie Watershed. This program is designed to reduce the amount of nonpoint source pollutants such as sediment, fertilizer, oil and road salt that enter Lake Erie through the many streams and rivers in the Lake Erie Watershed.
What is the Lake Erie Watershed?
The Lake Erie Watershed is the area of land, streams and rivers that drains into Lake Erie. This includes more than 11,000 square miles in portions of 35 counties in Northern Ohio. The major rivers in the Lake Erie Watershed include the Maumee, Portage, Sandusky, Huron, Vermillion, Black, Cuyahoga, Grand, Chagrin and Ashtabula. In the astronaut photo to the left, muddy brown water, potentially containing numerous nonpoint source pollutants, can be seen exiting the Sandusky Bay into Lake Erie.
What is nonpoint source pollution?
Nonpoint source pollution, or NPS, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries with it natural and human-made pollutants and deposits them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and even our underground sources of drinking water.
For example, agricultural lands and residential areas can be the source of excess fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides. Urban areas and energy production facilities can be the source of oil, grease and toxic chemicals.
Sediment pollution can originate from improperly managed construction sites, improperly managed forest land and eroding stream banks.
Farming and irrigation practices can produce excessive sediment and salt, and livestock, pet wastes and faulty septic systems can produce an over abundance of bacteria and nutrients. All these chemicals can end up in Lake Erie.
How can nonpoint source pollution be reduced in the Lake Erie Watershed?
The Coastal NPS Program encourages the voluntary adoption of best management practices and comprehensive watershed management at the local level. This includes activities such as stream restoration, wetland protection, home sewage upgrades, riparian ordinances and initiating local watershed action plans.
The photo to the right shows several examples of best management practices in a rural setting.
My job is to help local stormwater specialists, watershed coordinators and other groups understand which management measures are most effective for their site, and ensuring their effective implementation.
What is most challenging about your job?
The most challenging part of my job is maintaining the funding, partnerships and support for implementing the Coastal NPS Program. This requires that I coordinate with citizens, landowners, local governments, state and federal agencies, agricultural producers and watershed organizations in the Lake Erie Watershed.