Algae a problem at Lake Eucha, study shows

Wednesday, December 1st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A lake that supplies more than half of Tulsa's drinking water has excessive algae growth, which can cause odor and taste problems and eventually threaten fish by decreasing the oxygen supply, a preliminary study shows. The study includes data gathered during the past 18 months and is to be released at the Dec. 15 meeting of the state Water Resources Board.

The date is intended to alert Tulsa officials and the state Legislature as to what is happening, because the scientific community says the trend can be slowed or even reversed. "This is the first step toward making good, informed decisions," said Paul Koenig, an environmental specialist supervisor with the board. He said another year's worth of data needs to be compiled before final conclusions can be drawn.

Lake Eucha is in the heart of a highly productive poultry region. The industry has been linked to excessive phosphorus levels in the soil caused by chicken litter being spread in the watershed. The basin covers much of Delaware County in northeast Oklahoma and extends into Arkansas. All manmade lakes can begin to die when the water in streams and rivers is dammed to create a reservoir.

The Eucha watershed has the added burden of containing numerous chicken farms. Tulsa Mayor Susan Savage said more phosphorus is coming into the watershed than is leaving it, and at some point it may be necessary to quit spreading chicken litter in the watershed. Ms. Savage and others have been extremely vigilant about Eucha's condition because it supplies water to more than 800,000 people in the metropolitan area. The lake's condition is better than some other eastern Oklahoma lakes, including Lake Tenkiller on the Illinois River and Lake Wister in the Poteau Valley.

Oklahoma State University professor Mike Smolen said Tuesday that in the next decade, extreme measures don't need to be taken. Over the next several decades, however, more drastic measures will be needed. The study started in August 1997 and is being funded with $365,000 provided jointly by the city of Tulsa and the water board.