Probe: Area of Buffalo River tainted

Federal research in the Buffalo Rivers watershed shows increased pollution in the groundwater, according to a U.S. Geological Survey presentation prepared this month.

Researchers have not been able to tie the presence of algae to C&H Hog Farms, a large industrial hog farm located on Big Creek, a Buffalo tributary, in a study that could take years to complete.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that studies were conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. The Buffalo River, the countrys first national river, had increased algae growth this year among 70 miles of the 150-mile river.

The Buffalo, the countrys first national river, had 70 miles of algae this year, disrupting tourists late summer trips down the waterway. Thats about half of the 150-mile Buffalo River, 135 miles of which are in the national park.

The preliminary findings presented earlier this month to the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee come from multiple studies conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — U.S. Geological Survey findings show increased pollution in the groundwater in the Buffalo River watershed.

The state Environmental Quality Department denied a new operating permit for C&H Hog Farms last week, citing, among several reasons, that the farm could be contributing to water-quality issues in Big Creek and the Buffalo.

Research presented to the committee is not complete, and in the case of algae, it could take several more years to determine the sources of the problem. The research also has implicated other animal agriculture in the watershed as potential sources of elevated nutrients — algae-causing phosphorus and nitrates.

Buffalo River Watershed Alliance President Gordon Watkins said his organization has been careful, in the absence of strong evidence, not to link C&H Farms to algae growth. Still, the group is concerned about any possible increase in algae-causing nutrients in the river, which is surrounded by animal agriculture activities.

Three studies are focused on the Buffalos water quality. Two researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and another researcher from the Environmental Quality Department studied water quality issues and sources of those issues in Mill Creek.

Researchers from the Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Geological Surveys Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center studied the Buffalos water quality above and below its confluence with Big Creek.

Billy Justus, an aquatic research biologist with the Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center in Little Rock, examined the growth of algae on the river.

The likely sources of bacteria in Mill Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo, are cattle, poultry and humans, Justus said. In Mill Creek, the U.S. Geological Survey is testing the DNA of waste to determine its source.

Researchers can determine what type of creatures are contributing to the pollution through genetic sequence testing of their waste. Genetic sequences of different animals intestinal microbes are unique.

Samples taken on Mill Creek below the Marble Falls wastewater treatment plant detected more human waste than from cattle, the two groups tested. Human waste detected was much lower upstream, where cattle waste was far higher as the sampling moved closer to cattle farms.

Researchers do not plan to test for traces of hog manure. Dr. Nathaniel Smith, state health officer and a member of the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee, asked why not, if feral hogs are expected to be a possible source of pollution in the river. Justus said he didnt believe the Mill Creek area had enough feral hogs to justify the research.

How many feral hogs are in the watershed is something David Peterson, who is president of the Ozark Society and who attended the committee meeting, would like to have a better measure of.

He said more domesticated hogs, cattle and poultry farms are in the watershed than feral hogs likely are. He also said those are a bigger risk than human visitors to the Buffalo, who he said are outweighed 400 times by domesticated animals in the watershed.

Nutrients are higher in the groundwater around Mill Creek than in the creeks surface water, researchers have found.

Many people in Newton County, nearly all of which is in the Buffalos watershed, get their drinking water from groundwater wells.

Nutrients were at times higher, but not significantly, in Big Creek after C&H Hog Farms went into operation, Justus said.

“What were seeing now is comparable to old data,” Justus told the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee earlier this month.

Big Creek is the only tributary of the Buffalo to be considered “impaired” by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, in part for elevated E. coli and in part for diminished dissolved oxygen. The Buffalo is additionally considered impaired for several miles upstream of its confluence with Big Creek and several miles downstream of it, specifically for E. coli levels.

In the algae study, researchers could not link C&H Hog Farms to the increase in “filamentous” algae on the river in recent summers, Justus said. Such algae is green and resembles mesh.

Researchers have found that gravel bars along the river have higher phosphorous concentrations, likely contributing to phosphorus in the river. Some springs, including tributaries, also had higher than expected nitrate and phosphorous concentrations than researchers expected, much higher than the concentrations in “mainstem” sites, or points on the Buffalo.

Justus wants to do additional years of research on the algae problem, although the U.S. Geological Survey does not have funding to do so. He said he thinks another five to six years is needed to determine the source of the algae.

The Buffalo River is located in the wrong state to be a "scenic" or "recreational" stream. This is because Arkansas is dominated by industrial and agricultural interests, due to the poverty here. Its more important for people to make money from these pursuits than it is for the river to be pristine. When people are barely surviving, we must let them pursue survival, even if it means trashing our rivers and streams like the Buffalo. If Arkansas ever gets on its feet economically, say, where it is in the top 35 states in per capita income (currently 48th of 50), then perhaps aesthetic and recreational aspects of the state like scenic rivers can be protected without starving the citizens of the state. Until then, our poverty keeps us down, and our poverty prevents us from having nice things like other, wealthier states.

In February of 2017, French Hill voted for to overrule the Obama rule keeping cola mines from dumping too much in streams. He is very anti-environment. It's a shame that Clarke Tucker couldn't beat him this time. Hill and his wife make much money supporting the insurance and pollution industries. They don't care about anybody but themselves.

NODMCM – Wow! Now that is viewpoint I hadn't even thought about. Gonna take some time to wrap my head around that.

If only PopMom family would have donated a few thousand more $$$$$$$$$$$$$ , I'm sure Clarke "weasel" Tucker would have easily won……..SARC

I believe Nod is being sarcastic. That thought process aligns too much with Trump. And we know hed never side with Trump. Also, hes right about the per capita income, but Arkansas is also the 2nd cheapest state to live in according to a 2018 story by CNBC.

Talk about clean rivers when corporations are still suffering is against conservative policies. Remember natural pollution is natural and not caused by humans. Unless the pollution is specifically bothering you, to complain is socialism.

As frenchie said, he stands ready to protect us from government taking away soc security-medicare, but being GOP he must obey as a robot to fulfill the GOP mantra to end it.

The Buffalo River has 1.46 million human visitors per year many of which float the river or spend time within a few feet of the river. There is a considerable distance between toilet facilities along the river. Each day the average human urinates one to two quarts of a liquid high in nitrates and averages 12 ounces of feces of which about 50% is e.coli and other bacteria. There is a hog farm located miles from the Buffalo River. Which is the more likely point source of nitrate and e. coli human waste released feet from the Buffalo River or hog waste released miles from the river?

True about human waste, but we have been using the Buffalo recreationally for many years. Why was this not a problem a decade or two before the hog farm?

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