Kings Watershed group holds its annual meeting

Thursday, January 26, 2006

BERRYVILLE -- Goals and trends of water quality monitoring dominated the annual meeting of Kings River Watershed Partnership Thursday night.

The Pioneer Room of Carroll Electric Cooperative was filled to near capacity, but fewer than 30 voted unanimously to elect farmer and real estate agent Todd Summers to the board of directors, replacing Justice of the Peace Duane Coatney, who resigned last fall after winning office to avoid conflict of interests.

Also elected to second terms on the board were Madison County resident Page Shurgar and Berryville science teacher Sam Davis.

Davis reported on the partnership's water quality monitoring committee's work saying that while data from 149 tests at seven sites have been collected monthly in the past two years, only trends of what is going on in the river are known at this time. "We are establishing a base line," he said.

The data includes information about aquatic life as well as chemical content, including oxygen, nitrates, reactive phosphorus and water hardness.

Tests indicate the phosphorus content on Osage Creek both above and below the Berryville Wastewater Treatment Plan is above the standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA calls for water quality to not exceed .05 milligrams of phosphates per liter when streams discharge into lakes or reservoirs, and less that .10 mg/L for streams not discharging into lakes to control algae growth.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is developing new standards on phosphates. The EPA has set a level at .1 mg./L, which is the basis of the total maximum daily load for Osage Creek and related to Berryville working to upgrade water treatment equipment to drastically lower phosphate discharge.

Missouri's Department of Natural Resources is also in the process of formulating a standard for what the Kings River discharges into Table Rock Lake.

To assure accuracy, a Quality Assurance Project Plan has been approved by EPA Region 7 in partnership with the Arkansas Water Resources Center Water Quality Lab at the University of Arkansas. In part, the plan requires regular KRWSP water samples to be verified by the center to insure that the monitoring program meets EPA standards for water.

Rainy weather generally "waters down" the phosphorus content. Davis noted an anomaly, however, in samples taken from a pool at a bridge of County Road 705 where the pattern is reversed.

He also showed photographs he had taken of excessive algae growth, resulting from excess nutrients, and phosphate foaming apparently resulting from "gray water" discharges such as laundry water.

He concluded by announcing that a modeling kit, being obtained with a grant from Carroll County Community Foundation, will be customized to reflect the geology and topography of the watershed, and used in educational efforts in schools and public forums.

An earlier presentation by KRWSP Watershed Planner Shawna Miller went hand-in-hand with Davis' presentation. Like him, she said that 2005 has been a very busy year, with 70 people taking part in 15 meetings to develop a watershed plan, divided into groups address urban, on-site waste and education action items.

She reviewed a number of statistics and percentages concerning the river's contents, such as 49 percent of the sediments coming from rural land uses, and 38.54 percent coming from streambank erosion. A lesser amount of sediments, 11.9 percent, comes from roads and ditches, with urban land use, construction sites and point sources each contributing less than 1 percent.

These percentages are against a background of a landscape that is about 70 percent forested, and 30 percent pasture hay and grass.

Water treatment plans contribute about 19 percent of the phosphorus. About 90 percent of phosphorus attaches to sediments.

Action items included in the plan call for cooperation with various governmental agencies; mapping and analysis of streambank erosion and developing restoration recommendations; creation of a landowners' resources handbook; working with county road crews to identify road segments contributing sediments and chemicals to the river; and creation of a informational program for use in construction.

Nutrient levels were also reviewed, and Miller noted that a change in detergent at Tyson Foods has resulted in a noticeable reduction of phosphorus in the river.

Another concern is the disposal of outdated personal prescriptions and drugs in toilets. An informational tool kit is to be created to address bacteria, pathogenics, pesticides and herbicides.

Septic systems will also be addressed, and use of transfer stations will be encouraged.

The watershed plan also calls for creation of a flood plain map for the Kings River Watershed; adoption of an Urban Streams Program in Berryville; clarification of rules and best management practices regarding gravel mining; and labeling of storm drains.

The plan is still incomplete, as the cost of time and funding for the goals is not complete.

Miller said the plan will be a living document that can be redone as needed.

Her presentation sparked a few critical questions regarding concerns about federal intervention, which Miller largely discounted. She said that even if the EPA did try to control the river, it has no authority over non-point sources of pollution. Further, the charter of KRWSP specifically limits its role to science, education and charitable purposes.

The meeting also debuted a number of awards, including the Ozarks Humanity Award to the partnership by Alexander Virden and Sandra L. Doss; the Volunteer of the Year Award to Susan Flake, who was not in attendance; and the Land Stewardship Award to Kelly, Paula and Katie Swofford.

Katie Teague of the Washington County Cooperative Extension Office addressed water quality education in northwest Arkansas, noting that the region's karst geology makes it very vulnerable to surface activities.

Teague described the natural eutrophication, or filling in, of aging lakes due to plant growth and decreased oxygen, which is triggered by phosphorus. With increased nutrient runoff, she said the normally centuries-long eutrophication process can take place in decades.

Regarding agricultural practices, she noted that livestock and poultry are comparatively inefficient processors of phosphorus, meaning that manure contains a high content of phosphorus, which is compounded with additional fertilization.

Carroll and Benton counties are entirely within a designated nutrient surplus area, as are most of Washington, Madison, Boone and Marion counties. Soil tests, available free of charge from Cooperative Extension, are the best tools individuals can use to manage phosphorus, she said.

Teague criticized indiscriminate use of store-bought fertilizers containing phosphorus on lawns when most lawns in the area have adequate phosphorus already. She suggested that homeowners also have set-back distances for fertilizer application, so that fertilizers do not go into storm drainage systems

A Web site, at http://www.uaex. edu/agriculture.htm, contains a link to environmental management which contains considerable information that can be utilized by the public.

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