Citizen Scientists Take on the 1st Semi-Annual Buffalo River Algae Survey

August 19, 2018

A group of two dozen scientists, students, activists and Master Naturalists met in Gilbert on Aug. 18th for a half-day workshop on conducting an algal survey on the Buffalo River. Jessie Green, White River Waterkeeper and Teresa Turk with Ozark River Stewards, organized the event with the support of Patagonia, Arkansas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Arkansas Wildlife Federation, Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers, and Laura Timby.


Continuing reports of nuisance algae in unprecedented amounts, including limited areas of cyanobacteria, and recent designation of impairment along portions of the Buffalo National River by Arkansas Dept. of Environmental Quality, provided the impetus for this science-based effort to gather data for analysis.


Teresa Turk explained to the group that a similar survey conducted on the Shenandoah River in VA had proved the most relevant, being of similar size and also in an area of karst geology, so it provided the model for their protocol. "So many people care about the health and safety of the river," she said. "We feel that there is not enough being done to protect it, so it's time for citizens to step up."


On Sunday, Aug. 19th, nine teams were deployed to six different stretches of the river, starting at Baker Ford and ending at Rush. Each team documented a suite of data including percent benthic algal coverage and collected GPS locations and photo documentation of observations. The study was designed to remove observer bias and simplify research questions to provide meaningful, replicable baseline data.


Results will be analyzed by Turk, Green, and other expert scientists and visually displayed through interactive maps on White River Waterkeeper’s website. Volunteer efforts paved the way for future routine studies for longterm monitoring. With transparency and disseminating information to the public at the forefront of research goals, a healthy mix of seasoned researchers, budding scientists, and interested citizens – the quality of information will not only improve through future efforts but also provide valuable data to help inform management decisions and additional research goals. "We are so grateful for the support and continued interest in our efforts to protect our waterways," Jessie Green said.

Preview of Streams not Meeting Dissolved Oxygen Water Quality Standards

January 30, 2018

The draft 2018 303(d) List of Impaired Waterbodies will soon be available for public comment and review. In anticipation of public comments, White River Waterkeeper has begun conducting our own independent assessments. Included in our report, we have evaluated critical season dissolved oxygen for five sites with continuous readings from USGS gage stations. Of those evaluated, three are determined to be impaired, or not meeting water quality standards. 


Meeting Water Quality Standards*

  • South Fork Little Red River upstream of Gulf Mountain WMA

  • War Eagle Creek at War Eagle


Not Meeting Water Quality Standards*

  • Big Creek at Carver

  • South Fork Little Red River downstream of Gulf Mountain WMA

  • White River near Fayetteville


*Determinations based on critical season dissolved oxygen standards. Assessment of all other water quality standards is not included in this preliminary review. 

White River Waterkeeper Refutes Claims Regarding Drastic Water Quality Improvements in Arkansas

July 24, 2017


24 July 2017


White River Waterkeeper Refutes Claims Regarding Drastic Water Quality Improvements in Arkansas


In rebuttal to the claims announced in a press release from Governor Asa Hutchinson’s office on Thursday, 20 July 2017, stating Arkansas has seen drastic water quality improvements – White River Waterkeeper, Jessie J. Green, released a report evaluating the degree of improvements in Arkansas from 2008 to 2016.


Water quality standards combine the designated uses of a waterbody, such as its ability to provide fishable, swimmable, and drinkable uses, along with criteria necessary to support those uses, such as the concentration of oxygen needed to support a fishery or concentration of allowable bacteria that can be present while protecting public health of swimmers. Every two years, states are required to complete an assessment of the waters of their state to determine which waterbodies are meeting, or “attaining”, water quality standards and which ones are not. Those waters not meeting water quality standards are considered “impaired”, because water quality is insufficient to provide safe water for uses such as fishing, swimming, or drinking.


Pursuant to section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, states must compile a list of impaired waters that need to be addressed through regulatory action, such as reviewing the discharge limits of pollutants allowed in a waterbody to meet water quality standards. The list of waters considered impaired and needing improvement to meet standards is referred to as the 303(d) list. States must provide EPA with a justification for all of their attainment or impairment decisions for EPA to determine whether or not they approve of the state’s assessment. It is encouraged that states come up with an Assessment Methodology that outlines objective and consistent guidelines for basing decisions. A well accepted and common method of basing decisions is through the utilization of exceedance thresholds. In the case of bacteria, the concentration (i.e. criteria) can be surpassed up to 25% of samples collected during the summer months (i.e. Primary Contact Season) and still be considered as “attaining” its water quality standards. As discussed in the report, raising the allowable exceedance threshold for minerals is one of the reasons Arkansas has not has not had a 303(d) list approved since 2008.


Jessie J. Green, who recently left her position as a Senior Ecologist in the Water Quality Planning Branch of Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), the section tasked with developing water quality standards and assessing water quality attainment, stated “as someone who was actively involved with the development of the 2016 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, it was alarming to see such erroneous claims of drastic water quality improvement in Arkansas, as this hinders our state’s ability to protect water quality for current and future generations. While we have made some strides in the state, inaccurately depicting the state of our waters is damaging to our state’s ability to restore water quality where needed and to the public’s trust of the work that comes out of ADEQ. The Governor has term limits, but the Department of Environmental Quality will be around long after political seats change hand. Citizens need to be able to trust ADEQ’s ability to protect the environment for the benefit of the public. Misinterpreting the results and altering interpretations based on politics, rather than scientific rationale, doesn’t serve the citizens of Arkansas well.”



Read the full report here

Waterkeeper Alliance Announces the Newly Appointed White River Waterkeeper

May 04, 2017

The White River Waterkeeper will be a full-time advocate for the White River and its tributaries, protecting and restoring water quality through community action and enforcement. Jessie J. Green stated, “White River Waterkeeper’s aim is to provide strong advocacy that will result in an improved quality of life for all citizens whether they rely on it for drinking water or recreation, or whether they simply value the continued well-being of White River and many of its’ extraordinary tributaries such as the Buffalo, Strawberry, Kings, Eleven Point, Cache, and Little Red Rivers.”

Fayetteville City Council Approves Discharging SEFOR Wastewater to White River

May 02, 2017

Approximately 70,000 gallons of wastewater that have accumulated in the basement of the University of Arkansas's nuclear reactor, Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor, that is in the process of being decommissioned, will be discharged to the White River through one of the City of Fayetteville's wastewater treatment plants.  

Save EPA

May 01, 2017

Your voice matters. Let the Trump administration know that, among many reasons, "The Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, both administered by the EPA, protect drinking water for hundreds of millions of Americans"...let's not go back to burning rivers. We're better than that. 

"Despite rising national protests and evidence of high E. coli levels and low dissolved oxygen on Big Creek and the Buffalo National River, the CAFO is seeking to change from a federal permit to a state permit that would allow it to continue to operate in perpetuity. In 2017, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will consider the issuance of a Regulation 5 permit for this CAFO. The Buffalo National River flows in Arkansas, but it belongs to every citizen of our country. Continued support from a well informed and concerned citizenry will be necessary to stop this permitting change and ensure the river’s protection for future generations."

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