About 15 central Ohio residents attended an informational meeting June 28 about the Blacklick Creek Watershed Action Plan.

About 15 central Ohio residents attended an informational meeting June 28 about the Blacklick Creek Watershed Action Plan.

Blacklick resident Keith Couser wanted to find out how the plan could help with a retention basin overgrown with vegetation in his McNeil Farms neighborhood, just north of East Broad Street.

"We're all hopeful (something can be done)," he said after the meeting. "We have to maintain the area."

Water collected in what once was a dry basin flows into a nearby ditch that eventually feeds into Blacklick Creek. Improving, protecting and restoring the Blacklick Creek watershed is a process started three years ago by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, with the help of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and others.

ODNR provided MORPC with grants totaling $119,000 three years ago to help fund studies of both Blacklick Creek and the nearby Rocky Fork Creek. Jurisdictions in both watersheds also contributed money to develop the action plans.

The ODNR and OEPA endorsed the Rocky Fork Creek watershed plan in April and last week endorsed the Blacklick Creek plan. The next step for Blacklick Creek is for MORPC to organize groups of volunteers to help monitor the watershed.

"What we need is money and some willing people," Kurt Keljo, a MORPC watershed coordinator, told those who attended the meeting at Beech Maple Lodge in Blacklick Woods Metro Park.

EPA studies in 2000 showed that nearly half of the sites in the Blacklick Creek watershed did not meet EPA water-quality standards. Another EPA analysis is not expected until 2016. Keljo said there is a pressing need to restore those sites, although such a task could take years.

David Rutter, another MORPC watershed coordinator, said prior to the meeting that additional grants would be sought to begin implementing the action plan, including looking at ways to reduce pollution and erosion in the watershed.

Blacklick Creek is a nearly 30-mile tributary stream of Big Walnut Creek and runs through four counties mostly Franklin County but also Fairfield, Licking and Delaware and through 17 jurisdictions, including nine townships and New Albany, Gahanna, Columbus, Reynoldsburg, Brice, Pickerington, Pataskala and Groveport.

Keljo said chemicals and other runoff from farmland, failing home septic systems and land development that increases pollution and erosion all contribute to problems in the Blacklick watershed. About 40 percent of the land in the watershed is used for agricultural purposes. More than 80,000 people live in the watershed, Keljo said.

One resident asked about the status of the 38-acre Columbus Steel Drum site in Gahanna, which for years has been a source of pollution in the watershed.

Keljo said a recent settlement with the EPA would result in a cleanup. The company recycles 55-gallon drums that are contaminated with toxic metals and other waste. Over the years, that waste has polluted the site, and runoff has gone into Unzinger Ditch, a stream leading to Blacklick Creek.

Keljo said the cleanup settlement is an example of how some of the pollutants could be removed from the area.

A lot of smaller issues, however, like septic-tank discharge or farm runoff, are problems that neighbors helping neighbors must control to help restore the watershed, he said.

"A lot of different folks working together to get things done" is needed, he said. "Hopefully, evenings like this are a beginning. The next step is to make these things happen."