Sunday, August 06, 2006

Scenic Ozark Rivers Becoming Unfit for Swimming

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has been very busy in the last few years. I just read a very interesting article in the Joplin Globe reguarding water stewardship in the Ozarks. Warning: It isn't very happy news.

Is it safe to swim?

By Andy Ostmeyer

While neither Missouri nor McDonald County officials test one of the most popular recreational streams in the state, neighbors to the west watch it carefully.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has found that Elk River, where the agency tests it for bacteria, has levels so high that people who get in the water are increasing their odds of getting sick. That state’s recommendation is that what it calls 'primary body contact-recreation' — swimming, for example — 'is not supported' in Elk River.

The Elk River analyses are part of Oklahoma’s efforts to find out what is flowing into the Grand Lake watershed.

A survey of other Oklahoma records found:

At every monitoring site along the rivers and streams that feed what Oklahoma officials call the Neosho Grand Lake sub-basin — and there are 15 of them — recreation such as swimming is “not supported” because of bacterial contamination.

That includes not only Elk River near Tiff City, but also Spring River at Quapaw, Okla.; the Neosho River at Commerce, Okla.; and Honey Creek near Grove, Okla., on the north and east sides of the lake. The mean for enterococci bacteria in Honey Creek is 362.7 colonies per 100 milliliters of water, 10 times the federal standard of 33 colonies per 100 milliliters for enterococci. The mean of 19 samples taken in Elk River over the past six years is 50.6 colonies of enterococci. Continued - Full article here.

If you have paddled any of these rivers in the past and then paddled them again recently, you can see the damage for yourself. The impact on the rivers is invisible... if you have no history to compare it to. For folks like me that grew up paddling around in these rivers it is so obvious that it is heartbreaking. I gotta take my kid paddling more often!

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