Tulsa officials worried about watershed

Thursday, August 29th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ City officials say they are shocked that Arkansas has issued a permit for a wastewater treatment plant that discharges into Tulsa's water supply.

Tulsa officials say the Decatur, Ark., plant is the largest point-source polluter in the Lake Eucha watershed. They say it is dumping high levels of phosphorus and amounts of ammonia that exceed recommendations by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The plant discharges into a stream that crosses into Oklahoma, flows into Spavinaw Creek and then into Lake Eucha.

Lake Spavinaw, fed by Lake Eucha, is one of Tulsa's main drinking water sources.

Jim Cameron, chairman of the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority, said he is surprised that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality granted a draft permit for the plant.

He said Tulsa has the scientific data that proves the city of Decatur is the ``single most identifiable (point) source of phosphorus pollution in the watershed.''

``It's mind-boggling that ADEQ, without any scientific data, could reach the decision to have no restrictions on phosphorus and allow high levels of ammonia discharges,'' he said.

The Tulsa authority voted Wednesday to respond to ADEQ about the permit before the Sept. 16 deadline and to request a public hearing.

The permit will go into effect Oct. 1 unless comments are received or a hearing is granted.

Doug Szenher, public affairs supervisor for ADEQ, said the state has discretion to grant a public hearing.

Szenher said that in the 1980s the creek Decatur discharges into was deemed a ``losing stream,'' which means that a percentage of it travels underground. Because of the designation, it was determined that Decatur's discharge would have no effect on Oklahoma's water quality, he said.

But since the 1980s, there has been increased production in the poultry industry.

About 90 percent of the waste treated at the Decatur plant comes from Peterson Farms chicken processing plant.