Explorer Club 360: Visual assessment of Porter Creek
This is the first in a series of three articles from members of Explorer Club 360 on the health of Porter Creek, a stream that flows through Westlake and Bay Village, exiting at Huntington Beach into Lake Erie.
Our concern regarding the creek came from a study conducted by the Cuyahoga County Health Department as reported in their June 30, 2014, “A Holistic Watershed Approach to Health at Huntington Beach.” In summary the report stated that E. coli from Porter Creek was responsible for closing the beach for 10-20 percent of the swimming season. Our assignment was to do a visual assessment of the creek, observing the presence of physical debris, foam, wildlife, bank erosion and the water characteristics such as flow, turbidity and clarity.
We started by looking at the Google Maps satellite view of the Porter Creek watershed. A watershed is the area where all the rain and snow will drain to a single outlet. The Porter Creek watershed is an area bordered by just east of Nagel Road to just west of Dover Center Road to just south of Hilliard Road. In that area there are recreational parks, golf courses, commercial areas, and what we estimated to be about 50 percent residential areas.
Our observation of the creek occurred just after a rain and snow melt event. The only disturbing factor, other than a few pieces of litter we picked up, was that the water was very turbid. From the color of the water, a yellow/brown, we believe that the turbidity was caused by suspended silt and clay particles. As we learned from our research, these particles, in addition to being a warning sign for pollution, can also harbor pathogens such as E. coli bacteria.
Pathogens, which are microorganisms, are transported by attaching themselves to the suspended particles of dirt from yards and parking lots. The U.S.G.S. Water Science School states, “High concentrations of particulate matter affect light penetration and productivity, recreational values, and habitat quality, and cause lakes to fill faster. In streams, increased sedimentation and siltation can occur, which can result in harm to habitat areas for fish and other aquatic life.”
In conclusion, we believe E. coli may still be present in Porter Creek.
Learning for Life, Explorer Club 360 is chartered to Bay Sea Scouts Inc. and is a co-ed after school program for middle school youth. Club 360 in the winter months concentrates on environmental studies of our waterways and in the summer can be found sailing and boating on Lake Erie. For more information, contact Richard Gash, 440-871-6106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caitlyn Hartzell, Addison Meaux, Abbie Dent and Phoebe Sutherland
Adult leader with Sea Scout Ship 41, contact email@example.com