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Water Quality Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Are the fish safe to eat?

A. Fish are nutritious, high in protein and good to eat. Most Ohio sport fish are of high quality but some fish may contain low levels of chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury and lead from certain waters within the state. Choose smaller fish rather than lager fish for consumption. Smaller fish within a species tend to have fewer contaminates than larger fish and usually taste a lot better. Properly trimming and cooking your fish will help reduce health risks associated with eating fish.

Women of child-bearing age and young children (age 6 and under) should limit their consumption of fish (any species) from any water body in Ohio to one meal a week. For additional, more detailed information and to stay current on Ohio sport fish consumption advisories, periodically check the web site Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory or contact the Ohio Department of Health or Ohio EPA for the latest information.

Q. What are macroinvertebrates?

A. Benthic macroinvertebrates are common inhabitants of lakes and streams where they are important in moving energy through food webs. The term "benthic" means "bottom-living" and indicates that these organisms usually inhabit bottom substrates for at least part of their life cycles; the prefix "macro" indicates that these organisms are large enough to be retained by mesh sizes of approximately 200-500 Ám (micro-meters).

In freshwater, macroinvertebrates include insects, mollusks (clams, snails and mussels), annelids (worms and leeches), and others. In most freshwater, the larval insects dominate the macroinvertebrate community. Data obtained by collecting and identifying these organisms provide an excellent tool for assessing water quality in streams and lakes.

Q. How do I know when it's safe to go swimming in Lake Erie?

A. During the summer months, waters at public beaches along the Lake Erie shoreline are sampled and analyzed for E. coli, a type of bacteria that is typically found in the intestinal tracts of warm-blooded animals, including humans. When E. coli is found in water at elevated levels, it indicates that people swimming in the water face an increased risk from disease-causing microorganisms. Resulting illnesses can include gastroenteritis, skin irritations, and respiratory, eye, ear and nose infections. When the amount of E. coli in the water exceeds acceptable levels established by the State, beaches are posted with signs that advise against swimming.

Such contamination of a water body can be the result of a number of factors including overflowing sewage and storm water runoff that contains animal and bird waste. Therefore, elevated E. coli levels will often follow a significant wet weather vent. Some urban areas, such as Cleveland and its closest suburbs, have sewer systecomes hydraulically overloaded during a wet weather event, these "combined" sewers are designed to overflow to a stream or a lake without the treatment that sewage typically receives during drier weather conditions.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has worked to minimize combined sewer overflows and will invest approximately $580 million in capital projects, including $174.7 million for the reduction of CSOs in the region, over the next five years. These upgrades will help further control or eliminate sources of pollution in Cleveland area waters.