Northwest Arkansas Times from Fayetteville, Arkansas on October 13, 1974 · Page 23
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October 13, 1974

Northwest Arkansas Times from Fayetteville, Arkansas · Page 23

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Fayetteville, Arkansas
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Sunday, October 13, 1974
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7C Engineer Backs Proposal For Illinois River By PEGGY FRIZZELL TIMES Stall Writer ; Civil engineer Dr. Dee Mit;, chell ^outlined the federal water ; quality laws, which he said industrialists refer to as the "no «pit in the ocean" laws, and ; discussed the effects of effluent (treated wastcwater) on the Illinois River nt a meeting last ; week with the Highlands Chap- tor of the Ozark Society. Mitchell's aim was to demonstrate to the group of CO persons that the proposed wastewater treatment plants on the Illinois River would not lower w a t e r quality. Much objection has been raised to this plan since its adoption by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission last spring. Most vocal has been the Illinois River Property Owners Association; which Is seeking alternatives to discharging the effluent into the Illinois, ! At the regular chapter meet- clilions that could occur in the river. Mitchell said the lowest measured river flow for seven days in a 10-year period Is virtually zero for the Illinois arid Northwest Arkansas. Because Northwest Arkansas waters are mostly headwaters and so do not pick up water from other river sources, low and no flows in dry season arc common. HIGH TEMPERATURE High temperature in a river is the other component of the worst possible river condition, Mitchell said. High tempcature means that the discharged effluent will rapidly take up the stream's oxygen in order to assimilate the discharged that the re-aeration rate of ' the water will 'be,lower as the oxy- g e n is taken out and replenished slower, and thai the dissolved rate will oxygen be, at saturation its lowest pier ing, only Ozark Society members · were permitted to ask questions following Mitchell's presentation. Mitchell, who works at the University; of Arkansas and with the Northwest Arkansas Regional Plannign Commission (NWARPC). said the area basin plan to discharge regional effluent jnto the Illinois River will not harm the river. M i t c h e l l contracted with NWARPC to write the plan according to federal legislative guidelines. NATURAL DRAINAGE "People seem to be under some misapprehension about what the status of the river is," he said, adding that the Illinois River is the natural drainage basin for 90 per cent of the regional residents and as such receives about 25 m'gd (million gallons per day) effluent from t h e wastewater' treatment plants in the area that empty into streams such as the usage and Spring Creek leading to the Illinois. These plants are overloaded and, in most cases, not treating effluent lo the best of t h e i r capacity, he asserted. "A very high portion of water in the river is already wastewater and it has existed as cuch for the past 15 years," lie said. He added that this did not prevent even ver's-flow is effluent. . . Mitchell said "his plan body contact recreaton, in low flow season when almost "100 per cent of the ri- for ·wastewater treatment, which he labeled as the most cost-worthy and with the least social impact, was' developed after studying many alternatives, including use of wastewater in because as water gets .hot, oxygen leayes.' The critical deficit point for Arkansas streams is five mg-1 dissolved oxygen, Mitchell said. He said the maximum dissolved oxygen level' in Arkansas streams, referred to as the saturation point, is about 7.3 mg-1. Mitchell berated recent studies by other persons who found a higher dissolved oxygen content in the streams, saying such a level was caused by algae polluting the stream. On a graph depicting the assimilation of wastewater into the stream, Mitchell showed the algae helping to replenish' the oxygen supply taken out .by bacteria in breaking up the effluent. Mitchell claimed that all species of fish can survive at a dissolved oxygen level' of four mg-1 although this level is-not conducive to propagation. If the dissolved oxygen level drops to two ing/1' only s o m e fisn -mainly carp -- can survive. But the fish can swim away from those points lowest'in dissolved oxygen, he said. . One audience member suggested pumping Beaver Lake water into tlie river at the most critical times as a possibility. Mitchell said this is possible but not permitted to be included in the b a s i n plan for regional wastewater treatment because EPA feels the effluent .should be clean -enough -'without augmentation of water supply nor the inslallaton of aerators (devices in the river which would increase turbulence and thereby the oxygen level.) Mitchell endorsed h i s plan, eluding use of wastewaier in agricultural irrigation. None of these alternatives was acceptable, he said. He did not explain why. . In Mitchell's plan, two wastewater treatment plants situated at two points on the Illinois River would collect all the region's wastewater and put it through a secondary treatment ^*Z*,x hpfore dichareing it process before dicharging LEVEL But because the discharge plants would only be secondary treatment facilities, instead of advanced tertiary produces a nutrient-laden trei the more treatment that cleaner,. less effluent, the dissolved oxygen level would be lower in the stream than presently allowed by the state Department or Pollution Control and Ecology. The department has classified the Illinois River as a small- mouth bass fishery and as suitable for primary contact recreation, the propagation of desirable species of fish, and a - r a w water source for public drinking supplies. A stream classified as a smallmouth bass fishery must dissolved oxygen ,,. ,,.., mg-1 (milligrams ,,,,. liter). The lowest rating allowed in Arkansas waters is five mg-1 -- permitted for streams designated as warm- water fisheries. NWARPC is asking the state and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which approved the state issued in September, lower the river classification to warmwaler fishery with requirement of five mg-1. Mitchell claimed this will .not change the quality of the river that already has "junk in it.- maintain level of six per ,,,,,, OUTLINED In outlining the federal water quality law and 1972 amendment Mitchell said the national goal is to have no discharge of pollutants into any navigable waters by 19B5. He said courts tend to favor the EPA in ruling as navigable "stream that floats a toothpick." He did not mention that the plan calls for the "best practicable treatment" for municipal wastewater by 19B3, n standard lo be defined by the EPA and not necessarily one that will include treatment.) The interim goal Is to restore and maintain water quality providing for protection and propagation of aqunllc life nnd providing for recreational use if waters by 1083, Mllcho 11 said. He said a lower classification of the. Illinois River will not harm the fishlifc In Iho stream since under even Iho worst conditions fish could survive by swimming awny f r o m thn most critical point -- Hint point about 12 to IB miles dbwnslronm from tho planl nlto whorcl oxygon content would he lowc.il -- nnd returning when tho wnter n g n l n provided a llvnblo environment. Describing the worst con nothing that if no a c t i o n is taken -- an alternative not legally allowed by.federal law -the river would receive an approximate 3D million gallons per day effluent by the end of the 1980's. He said secondary treatment at the plant is more economical than tertiary treatment since to go below a BOD rating of 15- mg-1 (as a tertiary plant could do) doubles the cost of the planl for every live points decreased. (BOD is the amount of oxygen required by bacteria to break down the effluent discharged into the river. The higher amount of oxygen needed for the breakdown, the less oxygen left in the water for other a q u a t i c forms of life.) Secondary treatment fails to remove many phosphates and nitrates which age a body of water by promoting surface plant growth that eventually chokes the lake (the eulrophica- tion process). Tertiary treatment eliminates most all nutrients. BEAVER PROBLEM Since Beaver Lake is a major source of drinking water for the Northwest Arkansas region, Mitchell said it is not wise to continue to empty effluent from secondary treatment into the White River which flows into the lake. So the basin plan he wrote calls for discharge into the Illinois. However, the Illinois emp- which ties into Lake Francis, the pub- ratings lie drinking water supply for 1973, to siloam Springs. The basin plan includes the provision that Siloam Springs change its drinking water source from Lake Francis to Beaver Lake. "Lake Francis Is already a highly eutropbic lake," Mitchell said. Asked if the milricnt-laden effluent would then pass onto the recreational Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma, Mitchell said some probably would. Ask what would happen i( the waslewater treatment plant broke down and raw sewage was dumped into tho Illinois River during a low-flow period, Mitchell replied only that it would be a disaster. Asked if there was some way lo use tertiary-treated wnstewa- tcr so that 11 could be sold and pay the extra cost involved In Iho extra treatment process, Mitchell sold it is ridiculous to think yon can make money out of wastewater. 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