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Stream study finds hot spots in watershed

April 24, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

BEAVER CREEK - A study by a nonprofit organization examining stream conditions in the Beaver Creek Watershed found areas threatened by cattle, runoff and damage to buffer zones on the banks.

In some sections of Black Rock Creek, water temperatures last summer approached 90 degrees, the study said.

And about one-third of a section of stream about 20 miles long was in good condition, a watershed analyst for the Center for Watershed Protection said.

"The rest of it was fair to poor," Jennifer Tomlinson said.

The Center for Watershed Protection released its analysis at a meeting last week at Beaver Creek Country Club. The report cites 10 major recommendations that would help clean up the streams, including protecting forests along the stream and identifying illegal discharge sites.

Some homeowners in the area draw their water from wells, but Ted Gordon, Washington County's director of environmental health, said the quality of groundwater is not necessarily directly linked to stream health.

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"To say the quality of the groundwater is any way comparable to what you're finding in the streams, I just don't think that's accurate," he said.

In its 66-page report commissioned by the Beaver Creek Watershed Association through proceeds from a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the center scores Beaver Creek on characteristics such as nitrate levels, biological diversity and buffer quality. Scores on those indicators generally ranged from poor to fair or good.

According to Gordon, streams in the state all have suffered some degree of pollution. Residents worried about the quality of their well water can buy kits to test their water at the Division of Environmental Health at 13332 Pennsylvania Ave., Gordon said.

Though the recent study identified aspects of areas of the stream that are in poor condition, Maryland Department of Natural Resources watershed forester Emilie Cooper said Friday the stream's trout population is coming back.

"Overall, I would say the watershed is in good condition, and I think the assessment pointed that out," Cooper said. She acknowledged the watershed has problems that lead to concerns downstream.

Among the report's recommendations are planting trees, fencing out cattle, removing non-native species of plants and educating homeowners about ways they can protect the stream.

Dr. Michael Saylor, president of Beaver Creek Watershed Association, which paid for the study, said the group has worked with farmers and homeowners to reforest sections of the stream.

"I guess our main goal is to try to raise public consciousness about the importance of the quality of the water, especially since so many people in this county draw their water from wells," Saylor said.

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