The pathogen concern in Little Black Creek and Mona Lake is fecal coliform bacteria. Diseases associated with some pathogenic microbes can be transmitted to humans by water contaminated with fecal coliform. Because it is difficult to determine the difference between coliforms from human vs. animal waste, both potential sources within the watershed need to be considered.
From animals, it could be naturally occuring from wildlife or the result of animal manure that is spread on farm fields for fertilizer. Injection of animal manure into the ground is the best way to utilize the nutrients in the manure for growing crops without the potential of surface runoff, see photo below, left. Incorrect manure application to fields (too close to waterways, on frozen fields, see photo below, right) and runoff via tile drains can cause the manure to get into the creeks.
From humans, the pathogen sources are likely leaky septic tanks or lift station sewage overflows into the creeks. A five week study of the Kuis Drain was performed to look at the potential impact of all the septic tanks in the rapidly developing Cloverville area of Fruitport Township. During the study it was also noted that many people who live along the drain are dumping leaves and lawn clippings in the drain; this can increase the phosphorus and nitrogen in the water as the material decomposes. We hope to repeat the study in a year or two to see how the concentrations of nutrients and coliform may have changed over time. Results of the study can be seen in the Kuis Drain map and data file.
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