Arkansas regulators continue to discuss water issues

Saturday, April 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Arkansas regulators said Friday they are continuing to discuss water quality issues with Oklahoma and hope to resolve any water-related disputes between the two states.

Doug Szenher, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, also said that state environmental regulators are not currently considering a change in chloride standards for the Arkansas River.

Earlier in the week, Gov. Mike Huckabee had threatened to tighten the standards in response to Oklahoma's proposed, tougher phosphorous standards for the Illinois River, which flows from Arkansas to Oklahoma.

``At this point, we are not contemplating any change on the Arkansas River with regard to chlorides,'' Szenher said. ``The current level (in Arkansas) is within our water quality standards.''

Szenher said he did not know if Oklahoma and Arkansas officials had discussed the chloride issue, but he said the two states have had numerous discussions about Oklahoma's proposal to lower phosphorous levels in that state's six scenic rivers, including the Illinois.

Huckabee and others have said the move could hurt the economy of northwest Arkansas. Some cities in the region are considering suing if Oklahoma adopts the standards.

The Oklahoma Water Resources board has approved a limit of 0.037 parts per million of phosphorous in the rivers, to be achieved in 10 years. The new standards must now be approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and Gov. Frank Keating to become law.

Keating also has threatened litigation against Arkansas if negotiations don't resolve the dispute over phosphorus levels in the Illinois.

Arkansas blames runoff from oil fields in Oklahoma for adding chloride to the Arkansas, which flows from Kansas through Oklahoma into Arkansas.

Oklahoma blames runoff from neighborhoods and poultry and cattle operations in Arkansas for contributing to phosphorus levels in the Illinois.

Oklahoma water regulators have said the Arkansas River leaves Oklahoma cleaner than when it arrives.

A combination of state protection and increased water flowing into the Arkansas improves the river's chloride levels by nearly 50 percent during its passage through the state, according to figures by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

Szenher said he did not know about the validity of the claim.

``I cannot speak for Oklahoma because I do not have access to their data,'' he said.