Save the Illinois River, Inc.
24369 E 757 Rd.
Tahlequah, OK 74464-1949
(918) 284-9440

New Threat for the Illinois River

Save the Illinois River, Inc. | Environment | February 02, 2021


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Barren Fork Creek  Photo by Kim Baker

 

A NEW THREAT FOR OUR RIVER


 IS THIS HOW ARKANSAS COOPERATES ON MEETING OUR WATER QUALITY STANDARDS?



ARKANSAS PROPOSES SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT CHANGES THATTHREATEN THE ILLINOIS RIVER WATERSHED.



A NEW THREAT FOR OUR RIVER IS THIS HOW ARKANSAS COOPERATES ON MEETING OUR WATER QUALITY STANDARDS?
ARKANSAS PROPOSES SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT CHANGES THATTHREATEN THE ILLINOIS RIVER WATERSHED.

 
Oklahoma has formally objected to a proposed Arkansas sewage treatment plant permit because more polluting phosphorus would be added to the Illinois River.  Objections were filed by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC).  If finally approved by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, the permit for the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority (NACA) will be submitted to the EPA for its approval.

The permit would allow NACA to increase its dischargefrom 3.6 million gallons of wastewater per day to 7.2 million gallons per day.The phosphorus limit would increase from 0.1 mg/L to 0.5 mg/L. The increased flow and the increased amount of phosphorus amounts to a tenfold increase in phosphorus. The OWRB's, in its formal comments, stated:"Oklahoma's total phosphorus WQS (water quality standard) is consistently violated as the Illinois River flows from Arkansas into Oklahoma.  Increasing the allowable phosphorus load...is inconsistent with the watershed wide efforts to reduce phosphorus loading and meet applicable Oklahoma WQS as required by the Clean Water Act."

The OCC made similar objections in a letter to Arkansas saying the proposed permit for NACA amounts to "backsliding"."The documentation provided has not shown us how revision of this increase in loading will result in water quality standards attainment but instead suggest that it will become more difficult (to meetWQS). We therefore do not agree that this meets the anti-backsliding requirements (Clean Water Act)", the OCC letter said.

Oklahoma's phosphorus limit for the Illinois River, Flint Creek, and Barren Fork Creek is 0.037 mg/L. Arkansas...following a two-year study by Baylor University...agreed it would meet the Oklahoma water quality rule. Regulators from both states have been meeting privately to determine how and when Arkansas will meet the 0.037 mg/L phosphorus limit.

Amidst these discussions, Arkansas has drafted a proposed amendment to a Memorandum of Agreement with Oklahoma.  The MOA, as written, might prevent the new permit for NACA.  The proposed amendment to the MOA is contained in the 365-page draft NACA NPDES permit and was discovered by STIR.

STIR has a long involvement with the NACA facility and originally protested the permit because of the phosphorus limit.  EPA noted that the discharge stream, OsageCreek, was impaired by phosphorus and the limit would have to be 0.1 mg/Linstead of 1.0 mg/L.

 

 


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