On June 26th, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) held a stakeholders meeting in Bainbridge to present to the public the findings of the Big Raccoon Creek Watershed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) comprehensive study conducted from 2010 through 2013. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a TMDL calculates the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed in a water body without violating water quality standards and designated uses. During the meeting presentations were given to inform the public of the contents of the TMDL document and future planning options for the watershed. Local agencies were also present to discuss watershed projects and funding opportunities. This meeting opened the public comment time which will end on July 26 at 6:00 p.m

The TMDL document addresses water quality problems in water bodies and identifies possible point and non-point sources of pollutants. Additional data from 2005 was used in the TMDL document preparation. According to the TMDL, the Big Raccoon Creek watershed has impaired water segments on the 303(d) list (impaired waterway list). The headwaters for this watershed begins near New Ross and drains 215 square miles in west central Indiana through Boone, Hendricks, Montgomery, Putnam and Parke Counties. The Big Raccoon Creek Watershed drains through Walnut, Clark and Scott Townships in Montgomery County. Major streams which are included in the report include: Big Raccoon Creek, Little Raccoon Creek, Ramp Creek, Cornstalk Creek, Haw Creek and Byrd Branch. Minor tributaries include Lick Creek, Cline Creek, Muddy Run Creek and several unnamed tributaries.

According to the TMDL report, the Big Raccoon Creek Watershed is listed for elevated levels which exceed the federal Clean Water Act allowable limits for E.coli and impaired biotic communities including low dissolved oxygen, increased total phosphorus and increased total suspended solids. When a watershed encounters low dissolved oxygen, it is generally due to an increase in aquatic vegetation as a result of excess nutrient deposition into the waterway.

E. coli elevations can be attributed to a number of possible sources including point sources (waste water treatment plants) and non-point sources such as agricultural runoff, failing septic systems, livestock, stream bank erosion, urban runoff and wildlife.

At this time, the Big Raccoon Creek Watershed is considered by IDEM as un-swimmable, un-fishable and un-drinkable. For this reason, it is important for those who live along these stream systems to consider having their private wells tested for contaminants such as coliform bacteria and nitrates after a time of flood, after plumbing installations or when water taste or odor changes from iron or sulfur reducing bacteria.

An annual maintenance test is recommended. Currently, an independent study is being conducted on private wells along these waterways. Twenty participants will be selected at random for private well testing at no cost in order to collect data and assist IDEM with their continued studies of the Big Raccoon Creek Watershed. If you would like to be included in the draw for this study, please contact the Purdue Extension office in Montgomery County. If you do not wish to participate in this study but would like more information on how to have your well tested please contact the Montgomery County Health Department at (765) 364-6440.

The Master Naturalists of Montgomery County will undergo training by IDEM in July to become certified volunteers of the Hoosier Riverwatch Program. This group of volunteers will collect surface water samples to test and monitor for E.coli and impaired biotic communities on a continued quarterly basis of the Big Raccoon Creek Watershed. To find out how you can become involved with either the Master Naturalists program and/or the Hoosier Riverwatch program please contact the Purdue Extension office.

To read the TMDL report and submit your public comments for the Big Raccoon Creek Watershed please contact Alison Meils of IDEM at (317) 308-3204 or ameils@idem.IN.gov. For additional information on the TMDL or to learn about programs available to assist citizens with alternative solutions to decrease human impact on the waterways please visit the IDEM website at http://www.in.gov/idem/nps/3895.htm.