FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- In the border dispute between Oklahoma and Arkansas over the water quality of the Illinois River, a University of Arkansas expert says Arkansas communities have made significant strides but can do more.
The Arkansas Water Resources Center says water quality monitoring on the river and its tributary, the Osage Creek, shows improvement in reducing the levels of phosphorus coming from local municipal sewage treatment plants.
While encouraging, center Director Marc Nelson says Benton County and neighboring Washington County can do more to further reduce the levels to meet the standards -- 0.037 milligrams of phosphorus per liter -- for Oklahoma's scenic rivers.
"It's highly commendable that the wastewater treatment plants have cleaned up their discharges dramatically," Nelson said. "It's made Oklahoma happy, but not quite happy enough."
Nelson said a watershed management plan is needed that includes steps to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff that gets into the watershed.
The nonprofit Illinois River Watershed Partnership has begun a public awareness campaign to reduce the amount of unwanted compounds running off into the watershed. Partnership member Katie Teague said the group received a $300,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to protect the river.
"The bottom line goal is that we improve water quality in the area and help the urban population learn about the watershed," Teague said.
Teague said the group is encouraging property owners to conduct soil tests before applying fertilizers. Last year, landscapers were required to test their customers' soil before applying the chemicals.
The "Dirty Minded?" campaign has included television and print advertising, bright green bumper stickers and a billboard on Interstate 540 that say "Dirty Minded? You should be. Get your soil tested."
The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service does free soil testing.
Residents also are urged to protect the watershed by keeping fall leaves out of landfills, building rain gardens and disposing of pet waste properly.
The fate of the watershed also is tied up in a legal dispute. The state of Oklahoma sued 13 poultry companies in 2005, including Tyson Foods Inc. at Springdale, alleging the companies were legally responsible for the handling and disposal of poultry waste that has damaged part of the Illinois River watershed in Oklahoma.
This month, a federal judge barred the state of Arkansas from intervening in the lawsuit and Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said he doesn't expect to appeal the ruling.
12/10/2001 Lawsuit Filed Against Poultry Industry, Arkansas Town
4/12/2001 Report Shows Further Decline In Tulsa Water Supply
3/29/2002 Arkansas Governor Issues Ultimatum For Oklahoma
9/19/2002 Oklahoma Questions Arkansas Town About Phosphorous Pollution
9/29/2003 Arkansas County Tries To Curb Runoff Into Water That Flows To Oklahoma
10/23/2002 Arkansas Agrees To Move Poultry Litter
3/24/2003 Tulsa Settles Lawsuit Over Drinking Water Pollution
7/16/2003 Federal Judge Approves Poultry Lawsuit Settlement Between Tulsa And 6 Poultry Producers
3/16/2005 Edmondson Files Notice Of Intent To Sue Poultry Companies
7/15/2005 Battle Looms Over Chicken Waste
7/16/2005 Arkansas Poultry Companies Defend Litter
8/23/2005 Oklahoma's Attorney General Says He Has Spent $1-Million On Poultry Lawsuit To Date
10/4/2005 Poultry Companies Seek To Spread Blame
10/22/2005 Chicken Farmers Fight State's Plan To Test Soil
11/3/2005 Oklahoma AG Drew Edmondson Says Arkansas AG Mike Beebeâ€™s Action Shows Poultry Industry's Clout
11/17/2005 First District Congressman John Sullivan Calls For Settlement On Poultry Waste Issue
1/6/2006 Oklahoma AG Asks US Supreme Court To Steer Clear Of Dispute Over Chicken Litter
1/17/2006 Arkansas AG Meets With Poultry Farmers Over Oklahoma Dispute
2/21/2006 US Supreme Court Rejects Arkansas Attempt To Sue Oklahoma
2/23/2006 Oklahomaâ€™s Attorney General Asks Court To Allow Sampling Of Litter And Water
2/25/2006 Animal Waste Bill Alarms Environmentalists, Edmondson
3/23/2006 Federal Magistrate Approves Request To Take Samples From Poultry Farms
4/6/2006 Poultry Companies Oppose Dismissal Of Claims
4/21/2006 Oklahoma Farms To Be Tested In Pollution Lawsuit
8/24/2006 University Of Arkansas To Open Research Center On Water Quality
9/22/2006 Poultry Companies Lose Round In Federal Lawsuit
8/10/2006 Defendant Group Awaits Judgeâ€™s Decision In Poultry Suit
10/26/2006 Poultry Industry Challenges Drew Edmondson Ads
12/3/2006 Poultry Industry Fight Rages On
1/5/2007 Federal Judge Orders State To Turn Over Water Test Data
2/15/2007 Poultry Firms Seek Oklahoma Attorney General's Testimony
3/2/2007 Poultry Firms Want AG To Cut Legal Contract