Fall Creek is NAAAS-TY! It receives a lot more sewer overflow than the White and is a much smaller flow with little current during dry periods like right now, so it gets to be a cesspool and gets mighty nasty. The first submittal of the Long-Term CSO Control Plan submitted by Indy to the EPA listed something like $1B of work to be done over 20 years - I understand the reply from EPA was basically to do $2B of work over 10 years! I believe it is estimated that the average sewer bill for Indy residents will increase by $20 to do this work - big whoopin' deal. I pay $20/month right now for water AND sewer, which is dirt cheap, and the city is concerned about raising rates? I hate hearing people bitch about their sewer rates going up (which is done to help clean up our waters), and they are usually the ones who are more than willing to pay $45/month for cable TV and probably $45/month for cable internet service, too. I do have sympathy for the elderly on fixed incomes, though, who usually have expensive prescription drug bills to pay and an extra $20/month can be considerable.
I would add that our former mayor could have fixed the sewers at any time since he took office (as could any of the prior mayors), but that $1B is evidently better spent on keeping a pro football team (ed: A long term project was finally started in November 2005). Bottom line is the environment is not a high priority by any politicians/party in this state. There are some groups out there that have a decent voice and have expressed their opinion and had some influence in the whole sewer overflow issue - the two that come to mind are the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) and a group called Improving Kids’ Environment. This last group was headed up by a guy named Tom Neltner who sat in on a lot of committees and groups on this issue. He was a pain in the rear for communities with overflows, but was good for the environment.
We have been working recently on a project with a west coast firm. One of their employees is originally from Indiana but now lives in Oregon. He is amazed at the level of neglect the communities in this state have for their sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants, and how they find any reason or excuse to avoid spending money to keep them in good shape and up-to-date, and how the treatment plants are poorly operated and the plant staff are poorly trained (and no desire to be better trained). Out west they are much more environmentally sensitive and readily do on-going projects to keep their facilities in good shape and invest in their staffs to keep them trained and the plants well-operated.
I think the sewer overflows, except for the rare instance of a Guide Corp/Anderson fish kill (which really was a "spill" and not an overflow), are far worse for people than for the aquatic life. For people there are health concerns due to the bacteria and viruses, not to mention the aesthetic concerns. I don't think a fecal particle floating by Mr. Bass has any negative impact on him. What can be bad about overflows is the following:
- A heavy rain after a long dry spell - long dry periods allow "solids" to settle in the sewers at low flows. A quick heavy rain can scour these solids (which decay and consume oxygen) and wash them out the overflows - this can cause a rapid depletion of oxygen in the river and the fish suffocate. This happened a couple times in the 1990's on the White River near downtown and on the south side. According to the news it was mostly shad and rough fish, but I am sure some gamefish had to be affected. Some of the "old" guys who fish those stretches may remember those fish kills, which I think all occurred during the summer.
- Industrial waste in high concentrations due to toxic substances and heavy metals - industries are required to provide pretreatment of their discharges to get the pollutants down to a certain level so the treatment plants can handle the waste, so they typically don't discharge super high concentrations to the sewers. But if you can imagine all the nasty stuff from industries that is discharged to the sewers it can't be good for our waters no matter what the concentration.
Again, the Anderson fish kill was not a routine wet-weather overflow - it was due to someone at Guide Corp. who turned the wrong valve and dumped a whole tank-full of some really nasty stuff into the sewer, which was far in excess of what the City's wastewater plant could handle and it just went through the plant untouched (and pretty much wiped out the City's treatment process for quite some time) and into the river.
Sedimentation is bad for gamefish because it wipes out desirable habitat and spawning areas. Most gamefish, particularly smallmouth bass, PREFER rocky and gravel areas to live but NEED those areas to spawn. A lot of the less desirable fish spawn in silty and muddy bottoms. So as sedimentation occurs, it covers over the gravel and rock areas and turns them silty, driving away the desirable gamefish and providing suitable habitat for garbage fish - this could be one reason why spotted bass seem to be replacing smallmouth bass in many areas, as spots prefer sandy/silty bottoms. Nice rock-bottom holes get filled in with mud and silt, active spawning beds get covered over with silt during heavy spring-time flooding and suffocate the eggs.
The sand/silt comes from tilled farm fields and construction sites. No-till farming can really help keep the silt down. I read an article a while back where one particular area of the state (west central I think) had a big increase in no-till farming, and what were once muddy creeks in the area with only carp and suckers started coming back with more desirable species as the silt got washed away (and not replenished) and the gravel and rock was exposed.
Construction sites are a big source of silt also. Newer regulations require soil and erosion control measures on construction sites 1 acre and larger. These regulations are usually enforced by the local county soil conservation agency. Erosion control plans have to be submitted and permits must be obtained prior to construction, but I question how much actual on-site inspection is done to see that these controls are implemented - like typical contractors, they won't do it (because its more work and costs them money) unless someone is looking over their shoulder and threatening not to pay them unless they do it. It could help to report to the local soil conservation service if you see construction sites that don't have apparent control measures in place - they should be in place from day one until ground cover has been established. Control measures include silt fencing (the black fabric stuff about 2 feet tall, usually on wooden stakes), straw bales, silt traps, typically located along the edge of the construction site and along drainage swales.