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Cedar Creek Wildlife Project, Inc.

Cedar Creek Water Quality

combined sewer outfall warning sign This sign at Auburn's Seventh Street Bridge says it all: It still isn't safe to wade or swim at certain times in parts of Cedar Creek. Old-fashioned "combined" storm and sanitary sewers still overflow into Cedar Creek during heavy rain. Photo by Mike Walter.

Illinois Natural History Survey white catspaw mussel photo Despite Cedar Creek's designation by the Indiana Department of Envrionmental Management (IDEM) as "an outstanding state resource," the overall water quality of the St. Joseph watershed is significantly worse than that of neighboring watersheds, as the EPA map below shows. (Click here for news story.) Cedar Creek in particular suffers from contamination by e. coli bacteria escaping from defective septic systems. Other parts of the St. Joseph watershed suffer from mercury and PCB contamination and excessive levels of ammonia. A recent USGS study showed that freshwater mussel diversity in Cedar Creek suffered a serious decline between 1988 and 1998, probably due to chemical contaminants, especially phosphorus. Right: The endangered white catspaw mussel is now found only in Fish Creek.

208 Indiana waters are listed by IDEM as "impaired," including Cedar Creek! For a complete list, click here!

table of overall watershed characteristicsindex of watershed indicators map

Click Here for More Water Quality Information

The St. Joseph River Watershed

This map was obtained from the

Left: Tenth Street Sewer Outfall, Auburn. In 1963, this pipe was discharging a milky-white effluent into Cedar Creek. The discharge was probably untreated waste from industries located several blocks away. The Indiana State Board of Health later ordered the city to stop the pollution. Today the Tenth Street outfall functions as a storm sewer. Photo by Mike Walter.
Right: It didn't work! This combined sewer outfall just downstream of Auburn's Eckhart Park was built in 1968. In heavy rain the hatches were supposed to open to discharge "safely diluted" raw sewage. But the designers forgot that rain makes the creek rise, equalizing pressure on both sides of the hatches. The hatches stayed shut, sending a torrent of storm water rushing through the sewage treatment plant. Photo by Mike Walter.
Left: The Auburn Water Pollution Control Plant adjacent to Cedar Creek was expanded in 1999. The City completed a "Stream Reach Characterization and Evaluation Report" in 1998 to assess the need for better control of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into Cedar Creek during wet weather. A long-term plan for CSO management is being prepared. Picture courtesy of the City of Auburn.
Right: Another bad idea. A bulldozer at work in Cedar Creek just south of the CSX Railroad Bridge in Auburn in 1984. Using heavy equipment this way destroys fish and mussel habitat. Photo by Dailey M. Fogle of The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Copyright 1984 and used by permission.

Left: When Will They Learn?! The DeKalb County Fair Association did this to the banks of Cedar Creek in Auburn in August 2001! Bank-stripping means more erosion, higher water temperatures and loss of wildlife habitat. Photo by Mike Walter.

Right: Not Anytime Soon, I'm Afraid. The DeKalb County Surveyor used this dragline to remove a debris dam in the Scenic River section of Cedar Creek in July 2002. IDNR permit conditions kept the machinery out of the streambed this time and require restoration of the riparian buffer. A CCWP administrative appeal against the project was pending when this picture was taken. Photo taken July 3, 2002, by Dave Kurtz of The Evening Star, Auburn, Indiana. Used by permission.

If you think that this is bad, then see what the Allen County Surveyor did to Flat Rock Creek.

Left: The Metcalf Ditch at Center Street in Auburn, just before it joins Cedar Creek. Straight, narrow drains like the Metcalf, built for agricultural drainage, carry runoff polluted by nutrients and silt directly to Cedar Creek. A 1998 drain maintenance project stripped the Metcalf of many trees, increasing thermal pollution. More sensitive management techniques using riparian buffers, construction of riffle pools and installation of rock habitat stuctures would improve water quality. Surprisingly, minnows were present in the Metcalf when this picture was taken, indicating some recovery from the 1998 disturbance. Photo by Mike Walter, July 2002.
Right: A fairway at Bridgewater Golf Club, Auburn. Two Auburn golf courses, Bridgewater and Greenhurst, stretch along a segment of Cedar Creek. While golf courses provide the benefits of open space and flood storage, they also use large amounts of lawn chemicals and don't allow natural riparian buffers to develop.

Left: A parking lot catch basin in Auburn. Runoff from streets, roads and parking lots carries motor oil, gasoline and road chemicals that eventually reach streams as nonpoint source pollution. This particular catch basin sends pollution into the Auburn Industrial Park Drain, which connects to Cedar Creek through the Peckhart Ditch. Photo by Mike Walter, 2003.


Advertising that appears below does not necessarily reflect the views of Cedar Creek Wildlfe Project, Inc.