NORMAN — Groups hoping to preserve and improve water quality in Oklahoma’s streams and rivers have been fighting for better regulations for more than four decades. Many of the state’s waterways have been treated as dumping grounds for agricultural and commercial industries.
Scenic rivers that flow mostly in eastern Oklahoma developed protective constituencies that didn’t mind taking polluters to court to save the rivers. We remember “Save the Illinois” bumper stickers as far back as the mid 1970s.
An agreement signed this week binds Oklahoma and Arkansas on studying the water quality in the Illinois River. Both states want to know the phosphorous load in the river. The state of Arkansas will pay for the $600,000 study, according to The Tulsa World.
The agreement binds states to accepting the “best science” study of the river’s phosphorous load. It was negotiated without the river advocacy group’s participation.
Six technical advisory committee members — three from Oklahoma and three from Arkansas — will oversee the study, which will be conducted by a neutral third party.
With the agreement, for the first time, the state will be able to enforce limits on phosphorous pollution. Excessive phosphorous, usually tied to poultry waste and wastewater plant discharges, can fuel algae growth in lakes and rivers.