The discharge permits for Tahlequah and Westville are up for renewal.
Tahlequah and Westville are the only Oklahoma cities permitted to discharge treated wastewater into the Illinois River.
Copies of the permits are available from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
Comments must be received by ODEQ by May 22, 2005.
The Tahlequah permit, No. OK0026964, allows land application of sewage sludge from the treatment plant. Sludge is applied in Cherokee County. It is unknown if application is occurring in the Illinois River basin as this practice has been opposed formally by STIR and the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission in the past.
Westville discharges into Shell Branch in Adair County.
Sewage sludge from the plant is taken to the Cherokee Nation Landfill in Stilwell.
Westville, permit No. OK0028126, reportedly will receive federal funds to modernize its treatment plant and will remove phosphorus. It is believed that Westville will have to meet a phosphorus standard of 1 mg/L (1 part per million) in the future.
Tahlequah and Westville do not have to meet the .037 mg/L phosphorus limit for scenic rivers until all other entities in the Illinois River basin have met the standard. This was provided in a bill written by former State Sen. Herb Rozell of Tahlequah.
Tahlequah currently must meet 1 mg/L total phosphorus in its discharge. Reportedly, Tahlequah generally achieves less that 1 mg/L (.05?) but this is not confirmed.
In the future, Tahlequah and Westville most likely will have to achieve a lower limit for phosphorus discharge.
New technology (see posting in Discussion Section about Siloam Springs, Arkansas) may permit discharge limits of .02 mg/L total phosphorus at Siloam Springs. Rogers, Arkansas is now discharging phosphorus at a rate less than .05 mg/L according to reports.
If you intend to comment on the Tahlequah permit, it is suggested that you ask that land application of sewage sludge in the Illinois River basin be discontinued, if it is being practiced now. This is the position STIR has taken in formal comments submitted to Arkansas DEQ and to ODEQ on previous discharge permits. Management of sewage sludge is being given serious consideration by a combine of northwest Arkansas cities.
In the future, Tahlequah may build a new wastewater treatment plant that will discharge into a tributary of the Arkansas River near Muskogee. Elimination of Tahlequah’s sewage discharge into the Illinois River, or lessening of the discharge, will benefit Lake Tenkiller greatly.