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SMSU Studies Water Quality of the James River Watershed

The James River total maximum daily load or TMDL project is focusing on how much pollution is being transported down streams in the James River basin. Researchers are hoping to identify areas that are heavily polluted and locate the source. Dr. Robert Pavlowsky is assistant professor of geography, geology and planning at SMSU'

"This particular study came about because the state of MO identified the James River Watershed as one being impaired'being polluted by phosphorous, which is affecting Table Rock Lake."

TMDL is a federally mandated program with a goal of reducing the size and frequency of harmful algae growths in the James River and its major tributaries.

Because the James is listed as an impaired waterway, the state is required under the clean water act to conduct a TMDL study of the James. DNR asked SMSU to conduct the research and secured 100-thousand-dollars from the environmental protection agency for the one-year study, which Pavlowsky describes as the most comprehensive and scientific study done on the James to date.

He says the project is a coordinated effort to identify the relationship between phosphorous and its effects at a given site'

"This data is going to be able to be used to project into the future and to link up to future data in order to get a long-term look at the effect of our management efforts to reduce pollution now and how that will influence the water quality in the future."

While the study is not yet complete, Pavlowsky explains what's been found so far'

"There's considerable variability of phosphorous levels at the 12 sites. In some places, phosphorous levels would be considered to be relatively low and non-polluted and other areas'below the sewage treatment plants'have the highest phosphorous levels. These high levels extend far downstream."

The state and sewage treatment plants are working to reduce loads at the plants, so Pavlowsky says that's not the main concern. The main problem that needs to be addressed, he says, is non-point-source pollution'

"Which are those that wash in from the surfaces of the watershed or seep out from septic systems and those kinds of things that we don't actually know where they're coming into the streams from, so those areas we see scattered affects of that throughout the watershed, and we're still looking at them and trying to figure out'looking at the role of non-point pollution on the water quality."

The $100,000 grant pays for things like field sampling, report writing and delivery of data to DNR. The money also pays for student salaries since 8 students are helping with research.

Pavlowsky hopes the study will give them a good idea of where pollution is coming from and where new efforts may be focused'

"We already know that sewage treatment plants have to be ratcheted back a little bit and federal funds are coming to help out with that, but (we need to look at) other areas'urban areas, agriculture areas'to find out what programs can really work in those areas to reduce phosphorous."

The first formal presentation of the study's findings will be during the white river basin water quality forum. It will be held in Springfield at the university plaza convention center November 6th and 7th. For more information about that forum call DNR at 891-4300.