The Sulphur River Basin Summary Report recently released by the Clean Rivers Program shows high pH levels and algal growth in Wright Patman Lake.
Dr. Ken Crane, coordinator for the CRP at Texarkana College, spoke Thursday at the annual CRP Steering Committee meeting and presented the report, which is released every five years and shows water quality data throughout the basin.
"The high pH in the lake is due to the high algae growth," he said. The lake's tributaries have a lot of phosphate, which primarily comes from fertilizers, he added.
"Other things we find in the watersheds are nutrients, phosphorous, nitrogen compounds," he said. "They can come from a number of places. A sewer treatment plant, some things they couldn't get out, fertilizers and things. We have a big agricultural area, so it's part of the analysis. Is it coming in or is it already there?"
Krane explained that phosphorous usually isn't found in large concentrations in nature and that in the water, it leads to problems like algal growth and excess chlorophyll.
"It makes your plants grow on the fields and when it washes into the water, it makes the plants in the water grow," he said. "Well, when the plants in the water grow, they use carbon dioxide and that changes the pH. When they die, the bacteria in the water uses oxygen and that lowers the oxygen in the water and things like fish can't survive. As these fertilizers run off, you get lower oxygen and it starts killing things in the water and you have lower water quality. That's most of our problem."
The report shows there are three common impairments throughout the basin: high pH, high bacteria and depressed dissolved oxygen.
Wright Patman Lake, Jim Chapman Lake and the Upper South Sulphur River all have high pH. White Oak Creek and Wagner Creek both have high bacteria, including E. Coli. White Oak Creek also has depressed dissolved oxygen.
In Texarkana, Days Creek, which lies the Kerr-McGee and Texarkana Wood EPA Superfund sites, has high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the sediment and bacteria and nitrates in the water.
Every waterway in the basin is also measured against the highest standard for bacteria, which is that the water would be suitable for swimming and for drinking water.
Krane said the bacteria in the water can come from several different sources.
"The bacteria can be from humans or animals," he said. "That's a big thing that we find. That has to do a little bit with the standards that the state has set because basically they assume that you can swim in all water. That's a pretty high standard to meet."
The CRP is the contractor to monitor the water for the Sulphur River Basin Authority, which facilitates the program for TCEQ.
They monitor several watersheds including the Sulphur River, Days Creek, Lower Sulphur, North Sulphur River, Upper South Sulphur River Watershed, Jim Chapman Lake and Wright Patman Lake.
For more information on the CRP, go to sulphurr.org.