The Craig County Rural Water District 2 held their annual meeting this week, and I attended with the hope to be informed about any progress made to improve the water quality they are providing to residents in my district. I went to their annual meeting last year to ask questions about the notices we received in the mail every few months revealing the district was out of compliance with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality’s drinking water standards for Haloacetic Acids (five) HAA5. I had written a letter to the ODEQ executive director about my concerns and had been satisfied the agency would be assisting with next steps that needed to be taken to correct the problem.
The annual meeting held a few days ago proceeded through their agenda and finally got to the manager’s report with the announcement to those attending that the water we are drinking, is now in compliance, had been made safer for public consumption. Not meaning to be disruptive, but a yelp came out of my mouth with a “Yahoo!” Water is life, or can be if it is safe to consume! They really deserved a standing ovation for working with the City of Ketchum and the City of Vinita to find ways to improve the water coming out of our taps, our Grand Lake. The best news given that evening did not make it to print in the report they distributed but was given orally!
Our water source, Grand Lake is challenged by the runoff from agricultural fields and permitted waste water discharges. These bring natural organic matter, nutrients and when chlorine is added as a disinfectant the reaction forms the by-product haloacetic acids which may lead to liver or kidney problems, nervous system effects or increased risk of cancer. And that was my concern and my relief that the water district serving much of Craig County, but also Mayes, Rogers and Nowata counties was now in compliance and no longer producing the HAA5.
Fertilizer put on fields in our watershed may be good for plants but not for drinking water. We are what we eat, but that saying goes for the water we drink. Water is life, it can be. Florida had been in the news before the hurricane with a story about a fertilizer plant leaking into a sink hole contaminating the drinking water aquifer.
There was concern and a need to deal with it before rains caused even more to be released. After the rain they received with the hurricane, they will regret not reconciling that earlier. Sinkholes around phosphate rock mining sites have occurred recently in Florida and they have found ways to plug them. The state has more than half of the U.S. reserves of phosphate rock with about 63 percent of the country's production capacity, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The mineral is a key element of fertilizer used in commercial agriculture, and is an important building-block of the nation's food supply. But too much phosphorous can cause eutrophication which can stimulate methyl mercury accumulation in the fish we eat.
Water is life for us but also for the fish we consume must have safe water, too or we harm ourselves and our children with the exposure to heavy metals. LEAD Agency and the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Oklahoma's Health Sciences Center studied mercury in local fish. We have produced a fish consumption guide to use when deciding which fish and how much of each to eat from our watershed. You can find it on the website www.grandlakemercurystudy.org. Check out the fish consumption guide on lead in our fish produced by ODEQ at www.deq.state.ok.us.
We can identify with sinkholes and man-made disasters, and certainly with natural disasters. Water is life but as the Governor of Florida told citizens, it can also kill you.
We are learning more about water, this precious life sustaining substance and the loading we are giving her through the discharges and applications environmental agencies permit. Those permits give permission to pollute. Shouldn't more of us be water protectors since water is life? And when our water is tainted as it is in Grand Lake we need to ask if the permits are strong enough, if it no longer meets its beneficial uses of fishable, swimmable and drinkable.
Signing up to be a Water Protector!