Issues

The Root-Pike basin suffers from a number of issues born from
more than 150 years of growth and misuse. Root-Pike WIN is solely focused on taking on these issues and improving the basin with recommendations from EPA-approved, 9-key element
Watershed Restoration Plans.

 
 
Fueled by phosphorus and nitrogen, algae overruns the Pike Creek in Kenosha.

Fueled by phosphorus and nitrogen, algae overruns the Pike Creek in Kenosha.

PHOSPHORUS AND NITROGEN FROM RUNOFF


Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, pollutants consistently exceeding recommended criteria for the Root-Pike basin, are a necessary component of plant growth and are therefore included in many fertilizers. Unfortunately, both have adverse effects on water quality, with phosphorus being particularly detrimental to aquatic systems in excess quantities. These nutrients are applied as fertilizer, either in an agricultural setting or by applicators or residents and the excess nutrients not absorbed by plants are then washed into waterways. Excess nutrients can cause algal blooms, accelerated plant growth, decreasing oxygen levels and even fish kills.


SUSPENDED SOLIDS (SEDIMENT) FROM RUNOFF

Highly-eroded stream banks and limited riparian barriers, where farm land meets tributaries, produces significant amounts of sediment to make their way into our streams and rivers. Sediment negatively affects aquatic habitats, reduces water quality, creates impediments and negatively affects our beaches, coasts and harbors.

Sediment from farmland and stream bank erosion accumulates in Mill Pond in South Milwaukee.

Sediment from farmland and stream bank erosion accumulates in Mill Pond in South Milwaukee.


The Horlick Dam in Racine impedes fish passage and traps sediment loads upstream.

The Horlick Dam in Racine impedes fish passage and traps sediment loads upstream.

MAN-MADE ImPEDIMENTS

Dams have become an issue of concern because they contribute to sedimentation, which increases phosphorous levels and also raises water temperature and lowers the levels of dissolved oxygen necessary for fish and aquatic organisms to thrive. Dams also interrupt and disconnect the river system. While dams can provide some protection from aquatic invasive species, they are not a complete barrier.


STREAM BANK CHANNELIZATION AND EROSION

Stream banks along critical reaches are highly eroded and channelized and are a major contributor of sediment and phosphorus. Water quality and habitat can be improved by restoring these areas using bio-engineering stabilization that relies on plants and plant material.

Sloughing banks add sediment to the main branch of the Pike River within Petrifying Springs Park in Kenosha.

Sloughing banks add sediment to the main branch of the Pike River within Petrifying Springs Park in Kenosha.


Deicing roads makes for safer travel, but contaminates runoff and destroys ecosystems

Deicing roads makes for safer travel, but contaminates runoff and destroys ecosystems

Chloride from Salting Roadways

Excess chlorides are also a concern for the Root-Pike basin. A common practice in snowy states such as Wisconsin is the application of road salts and deicers as a means to protect public safety on roadways. Typical deicers contain chloride ions that can affect the reproduction of fish and other aquatic animals. Waters with a high salinity are also denser, sinking to the bottom of water bodies, impairing water circulation and effecting oxygen levels. As deicers are spread, those chemicals are also harmful to the adjacent vegetation along roads.


Dog poop that is not properly disposed of can pollute our waterways with bacteria, nutrients and lower dissolved oxygen levels.

Dog poop that is not properly disposed of can pollute our waterways with bacteria, nutrients and lower dissolved oxygen levels.

bacteria and parasites from pet waste

Pollutants from improperly disposed pet waste may be washed into local storm sewers by rain or melting snow. When pet waste is washed into lakes or streams the waste decays, using up oxygen and sometimes releasing ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia combined with warm temperatures can kill fish. Pet waste also contains nutrients that encourage weed and algae growth. Overly fertile water becomes cloudy and green –unattractive for swimming, boating and fishing. Perhaps most importantly, pet waste carries diseases which make water unsafe for swimming or drinking. When pet waste is disposed of improperly, not only water quality suffers – your health may be at risk, too. Pets, children who play outside, and adults who garden are most at risk for infection from some of the bacteria and parasites found in pet waste.


Americans love green lawns but fertilizers and pesticides can wreck havoc on water quality.

Americans love green lawns but fertilizers and pesticides can wreck havoc on water quality.

runoff pollution from homeowner actions

What we do on our own properties has an effect on water quality. Inside the home, flushing unwanted medicines down the drain or toilet can pollute our rivers and lake with harmful chemicals. Keeping a leaking car on the driveway leads to oil washing into the storm sewers and washing a car on the driveway adds unnecessary wastewater to the storm sewer system. On the lawn, neglecting to do a soil test, using pesticides or fertilizers, or placing leaves or grass clippings at the curb can all contribute to water pollution. In addition, directing our downspouts onto impervious driveways can increase the amount and speed of stormwater reaching the sewers, increasing erosion of our rivers and the rate at which pollutants are carried to our waterways.