Report shows further decline in Tulsa water supply

Thursday, April 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Half of Tulsa's water supply has a potentially harmful level of the nutrient "phosphorous." What does that mean to you? KOTV's Tami Marler went to Lake Spavinaw and Lake Eucha, as part of KOTV's investigation into potential hazards.

A new study released this week suggests the potential for a serious problem. But the city is taking steps to protect Tulsa's water supply. Spavinaw resident, Parveen Javed says, "It smells bad, it tastes bad, and the color is bad. It really smells awful." Javed says she and many of her friends in Spavinaw won't even use the city's drinking water, which comes from the same source as half of Tulsa. But since last year, the City of Tulsa has spent more than one and a half million dollars to treat for taste and odor, Spavinaw has not. "The color is just awful to look at it. I don't know why it's like that, but it is."

In 1997, the Oklahoma Water Resource Board blamed poultry farms for the foul taste and smell of Tulsa's tap water. That's because runoff into Lake Eucha was boosting phosphorous levels, which lead to an overgrowth of algae that affects taste, odor and color. That water goes to lake Spavinaw, where we get our water. A new study says the problem is getting worse, and needs immediate attention. Patsy Bragg with the Tulsa Metro Utility Authority says, "We're not waiting until tomorrow to start. There has been a three-year effort currently underway since we received the first report. There are over 700 farm programs underway."

But it's not just aesthetics like taste and smell the city has to monitor on an almost daily basis. Algae blooms can dissolve oxygen in the water, leading to heavy metal pollutants like iron, manganese and carbon, not to mention bacterial growth, killed by chlorine. "There are regulations about how much chlorine we add to water to make certain that we don't create byproducts that might be harmful to people." Experts agree, something has to be done before the water ever reaches the watershed, to ensure not only taste and smell, but also safety.