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Groups want stalled EPA water studies finished and seek support from Oklahoma and federal regulators...(posted 4/13/17)


OKLAHOMA CITY—Conservation organizations today urged state and federal agencies to speed up the process of protecting Oklahoma Scenic Rivers and Lake Tenkiller from pollution caused by farms and cities.At a meeting with Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality Director Scott Thompson, the groups asked ODEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency to help establish a “pollution diet” by completing studies that are currently at a standstill.

Ron Suttles, board chairman of the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma, noted it has been nearly a decade since EPA said it would develop Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution studies of the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller. The federal Clean Water Act requires TMDLs for impaired waters, he reminded regulators. State scenic rivers are impaired by nutrients such as phosphorus, by bacteria, and by sediment.

“We believe that after nearly two decades of debate, accommodating rules extensions and multiple extensive studies, that it is finally time to enforce the 0.037 mg/L (phosphorus) limit and hold point source and nonpoint source polluters accountable by adopting and enforcing TMDLs,” said Suttles.“We look forward to learning of your plans to get this project back on track and finally complete the restoration of these aquatic resource treasures which are so important to the people of Oklahoma.”

Other groups urging action include Save the Illinois River (STIR), Oklahoma Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, Greater Tenkiller Area Association (GTAA), and Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy (ORWP).Representatives of the Oklahoma Secretary of Environment, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, and the Grand River Dam Authority also attended the meeting.

Robert Kellogg of STIR said a recent scenic rivers water quality study scientifically supports Oklahoma’s 0.037 mg/L phosphorus limit, designed to prevent the growth of algae.

“The State of Arkansas, by signing the agreement for the Baylor (University) study, is deemed to have accepted Oklahoma’s phosphorus limit for scenic rivers,” Kellogg said.“EPA and all other entities involved in this issue must recognize this study and use it in support of meaningful TMDLs for the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller.”

CCO member organizations include the Oklahoma Nature Conservancy, the National Wildlife Federation, Land Legacy, Save the Illinois River, Tulsa Bird Dog Association, All Souls Green Team, Tulsa Fly Fishers, and Trout Unlimited.

See the letter presented to ODEQ and EPA



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