MILTON TWP., Ohio (WYTV) – Ron Smolek wasn’t surprised when he heard about elevated e. Coli levels in the waters of Lake Milton.
“We’ve experienced this before, and you know, we’ve been promised year after year that something was going to happen,” said Smolek, who has lived in the area since the mid-70s.
A contamination advisory was listed for Lake Milton on June 11 after sampling of the lake came back with elevated bacteria levels. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said one clean sample of water has come back, but until a second clean sample is confirmed, the advisory will remain in place. The results from the second sample are expected Friday.
The last contamination advisories were in March and August of 2015, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Smolek, who has served as a Milton Township trustee and now leads the local Utilities Commission, said he has been pressing for years to have water and sewer lines installed near the lake, where many areas still have wells and septic systems. He believes contamination is due to septic and farm run-off, which he said affects a much larger area than just the lake.
“It originates upstream in the Berlin waters. Lake Milton property owners contribute to it and eventually it gets down to Newton Falls,” he said.
Smolek said a fix is cost-prohibitive, however.
“We’ve been starting since 2005, and since then, the costs have escalated from about $3.5 million to currently it’s about $7.5 million, so the problem isn’t getting any easier to solve as time goes on,” he said.
Smolek said the project has been ongoing in phases, and the last phase is to close the loop at the south end of the lake. Currently, the north end of the lake has lines installed, but the southwestern corner hasn’t been upgraded.
An application is pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund some of the project.
Smolek said he believes when the sewer lines are installed, they will not only reduce the pollution, they will increase property values, meaning more tax revenue for the county.