AWW contributes evaluation of more than 18,000 data records for ADEM Triennial Review

ADEM held their Triennial Review of Alabama’s Water Quality Standards on July 19th, 2012. This review, conducted every three years, is a public hearing that gives the public an opportunity to become involved in the state’s water quality evaluation and review process through submission of data and comments.

AWW’s goal is not only to educate Alabama’s citizenry in water quality testing, but to empower people to use their water data and knowledge of water issues to become actively involved in the management of their local water resources.

In keeping with this data-to-action strategy, AWW water data from the past five years were queried and analyzed relative to ADEM water quality standards. Two queries were run, one to evaluate AWW sites based on dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration and the other based on pathogen (E. coli bacteria) concentration. During this period, 13,437 water chemistry (six parameters, including DO) and 4,910 bacteria records were submitted to the AWW online database.

Results of the queries of these 18,000+ data records indicated that 20 streams were impaired from low DO (less than 5 ppm) and 9 waterbodies were impaired from excessive E. coli levels, based on defined criteria.

Click here for additional information included in the comments submitted to  ADEM’s Triennial Review.

2 Replies to “AWW contributes evaluation of more than 18,000 data records for ADEM Triennial Review”

  1. I disagree with ADEM’s assigning the low dissolved oxygen to low flow alone. Low flow is a contributing factor in Buckhorn and Richland Creeks but past channelization as well as nutrients from livestock in the streams and riparian areas as well as animal waste in these watersheds, particularly the Buckhorn Creek watershed can not in our opinion be dismissed.

    Michael William Mullen
    Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper

  2. AWW Staff

    Excellent job on the AWW comments submitted for the ADEM triennial review. I am proud of all of you!

    I do have some comments and additional explanation about the streams in the Choctawhatchee basin that
    were listed for low dissolved oxygen.

    Buckhorn and Richland Creeks (Multiple Points on Both)

    Buckhorn Creek and Richland Creek were both in Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper’s triennial review comments
    in earlier triennial review cycles.

    ADEM has looked at these streams and says that the low D.O. is natural in these streams. I personally believe
    that is only partially true. Both of these streams were altered in the past with channelization and that alteration
    doubtless has impacted flow patterns and water quality. Certainly sediment deposition has increased as the
    streams have attempted to return to natural sinuous channels. Both streams have livestock impacts. In Richland
    Creek these are in the headwaters and in Buckhorn Creek they are a little further downstream. Cattle have
    unlimited access to the streams. There are ponds available that could be used as water sources in the upper
    Richland Creek watershed and only fencing and a stream crossing would be needed to exclude cattle. There is also
    poultry production in the area and I have no idea about the status of nutrient management. For Buckhorn Creek I
    believe that a water source or sources would be needed in addition to fencing or other exclusion methods.

    Ad hoc reports from multiple folks in the area indicate that these streams went down rapidly and drastically after
    they were channelized. One individual indicated that there used to be sucker runs well up into the headwaters of
    Buckhorn Creek. ADEM saying that these streams impairment is natural is somewhat if not totally bogus. There are
    historical and current impacts that contribute to the impairment.

    There were some in the area who felt as I do that these watersheds, especially Buckhorn Creek, should be targeted
    for a 319 restoration project. I do not know if a proposal was ever submitted!

    Unfortunately restoration would require channel restoration. Frankly I believe that the federal government (SCS) caused
    the problem and that NRCS should fix it. Some sharp national environmental advocacy attorney is going to find a way
    to may NRCS repair streams like these.

    McSwain Creek

    McSwain Creek at McSwain Creek Road is impacted by a beaver pond and by very low flows. I was there last week and
    I believe it might have been dry save for rain the prior week. There are some livestock in the watershed at that point
    but I feel that the impairment is caused by low flow and the beaver pond.

    Blanket Creek

    Blanket Creek at Highway 192 has wetlands upstream as well as a WWTP discharge. The site would probably have
    dissolved oxygen issues in low flow periods even if there were not a WWTP discharge. There is also a golf course and
    upscale residential areas upstream that doubtless contribute nutrients that impact dissolved oxygen. The WWTP is
    old. I don’t think and hope that ADEM wouldn’t permit a discharge to a water body with these characteristics today.
    Ideally the discharge point should probably be relocated or perhaps a spray field or a series of rock-reed filter ponds
    could be used to further polish waste and remove additional nutrients?

    Pea River at CR 6630

    I do not have a sense of whether the low D.O. in the Pea River at CR 6630 is strictly due to low flow or if it is due to
    other causes. There is a discharge, I believe a spray field discharge to groundwater upstream from Union Springs
    but I do not know the size of this discharge or whether it may be impacting the headwaters. There is a poultry
    processing plant in Union Springs but I don’t know what treatment level that waste receives or whether it even
    flows to the Pea River watershed.

    Michael William Mullen
    Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper

Comments are closed.