The Mill Creek River converges with the Ohio River just west of downtown Cincinnati’s waterfront. The watershed covers 106 square miles, and 500,000 people live within its drainage basin. The cumulative impacts of over 100 years of intense urbanization and industrialization have caused both the environmental and economic health of the watershed to decline. In 1997 the American Rivers non-profit group named Mill Creek “the most endangered urban river in North America”
Restoring the watershed became a priority for the community, and lead to the formation of the Mill Creek Watershed Council. This unique intergovernmental agreement was signed by 17 political jurisdictions that pledged to work together to save the creek and its drainage area. The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) is actively working in conjunction with the Mill Creek Watershed Council to clean up the Mill Creek Watershed.
To address the water quality degradation caused by stormwater runoff, OKI created the Mill Creek Watershed Stormwater Quality Management Project, funded by an Ohio EPA grant and a dozen local partners.
OKI choose the Vortechs System as one of the best management practices (BMPs) to be evaluated. They created partnerships with Sysco Food Services in Cincinnati, and the Hamilton County Engineer’s office, who each installed a Vortechs model 16000 to treat runoff from parking lots. The first system was installed at Sysco’s facility in Evendale, OH, then the Hamilton County Engineer’s office installed a system at its facility in Cincinnati a year later.
OKI’s demonstration project also included the installation and monitoring of a five-acre constructed wetland designed to reconnect the river with part of its floodplain, filter out pollutants and provide wildlife habitat.
Today, the Watershed Council’s membership is broad based with representatives from 37 jurisdictions. Plans are in place to monitor the systems and the improvement of surface water quality. According to Doug Smith of OKI, “The results of the monitoring data may add support for using separators and wetlands through the Mill Creek and beyond”