Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, Arkansas AG Sign Illinois River Agreement
Second Statement of Joint Principles and Actions_ Feb 20 2013.pdf
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt Wednesday announced an agreement between Oklahoma and Arkansas to study the water quality of the Illinois River.
The agreement comes after months of negotiation among the attorneys general, Arkansas environmental officials, Oklahoma Environmental Secretary Gary Sherrer and Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese on limits for phosphorus in the section of the river that travels through 100 miles of eastern Oklahoma.
In 2002, Oklahoma set a standard on the level of allowable phosphorus released into the Illinois River and other scenic rivers from “point” and “non-point” sources such as water treatment plants, farming operations and other factors that deposit excess levels of phosphorus into the water before the Illinois River leaves Arkansas and winds into Oklahoma.
The Statement of Joint Principles with Arkansas provides for a new “best science” study of the phosphorus load for the river with both states, for the first time, agreeing to be bound by the outcome. The new study will take three years, and could result in a standard stricter than the current requirement. Oklahoma’s phosphorous standard will remain in effect while the new study is conducted.
The study, known as a stressor response study, will be conducted using EPA-approved testing methods that ensure scientifically reliable data collection and analysis.
“Generations of Oklahomans have enjoyed the Illinois River for hunting, fishing, camping and floating, and their safety and enjoyment of the river is paramount,” Pruitt said. “This agreement ensures that the progress we’ve made will continue, and that the river remains a recreation destination for future generations.”
Tuesday’s agreement follows the first Statement of Joint Principles signed in 2003 that required Arkansas to make substantial upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and put limits on other dischargers in the watershed. The agreement included a provision that required Oklahoma to revisit in 2012 its standard of .037 mg/L for allowable phosphorus in scenic rivers.
The new “best science” study will be funded by Arkansas and managed by the Joint Study Committee. The committee will consist of six members with the governors of Oklahoma and Arkansas appointing three members each. According to the agreement, the joint study will be conducted by a third party group with no ties to businesses in either state.
The committee will produce two interim reports, and make public the final report and all data collected or reviewed during the joint study.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also is conducting a Total Maximum Daily Load study for the Illinois River that will set the discharge permit limits for all point source dischargers in the watershed. The EPA study is ongoing.