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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Oklahoma

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Tulsa County Blue Thumb Program -
Volunteers Make a Difference

The Tulsa County Blue Thumb Project was initiated to educate Tulsa residents and businesses about controlling and preventing water pollution. A strong emphasis on education is central to the entire project, which also provides technical assistance to developers, homeowners, and public officials. Topics include erosion control, streambank protection, and other nonpoint source pollution control activities. Finally, Blue Thumb's trained volunteers collect water quality data and work on educational programs.

Blue Thumb partners include the Tulsa County Conservation District, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. In all, 24 agencies, civic groups, and environmental organizations participate in various ways.

Education

Nonpoint source pollution education is a major project goal, involving staff, volunteers, youth, and adults in various formal and informal settings. Blue Thumb developed a miniature stormsewer drainage model that demonstrates how stormwater can pollute and how people can use their blue thumbs to keep water clean. Over 50 different schools, civic clubs, churches, and educational events (e.g., the Tulsa State Fair and the Greater Tulsa Home and Garden Show) have seen this model.

Blue Thumb also works with more specialized audiences. For example, it teaches erosion and sediment control training to builders, developers, engineers, government staff, and others who must have a professional understanding of the field. At training sessions and in two-day courses participants learn


  • the principles of soil erosion,
  • the importance of ground cover and vegetation,
  • alternative practices that minimize erosion and maintain sediment on site, and
  • the importance of proper maintenance and best management practices.

Evaluations of the two-day course have been exceptional. Participants have been particularly pleased with the site tour and sessions dealing with how to prepare a stormwater pollution prevention plan. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has requested training for their staff and contractors in 1995 and 1996. Blue Thumb staff also traveled to Pierre, South Dakota, to provide similar training in that state.

Volunteers integral to Blue Thumb programs

A combination of classroom learning, science labs, and field trips prepare the volunteers for monthly chemical monitoring, biological and habitat assessments, and educating the public.

Blue Thumb volunteers were integral to the success of the program. The Tulsa Blue Thumb Program has 40 active volunteers, including eight teachers who joined so that Blue Thumb monitoring can benefit students as well. Among the 32 other volunteers, are 11 members of the original class who trained in the spring of 1993.

A combination of classroom learning, science labs, and field trips prepare the volunteers for monthly chemical monitoring, biological and habitat assessments, and educating the public. Volunteers contributed over 3,700 hours between 1992 and 1995. Data from their monitoring activities are used to tailor outreach activities. The result is a greater emphasis on the wise use of lawn chemicals and continued emphasis on erosion and sediment control.


CONTACT: John Hassell
Water Quality Division Oklahoma Conservation Commission
(405) 858-2000



Combining Oil Production and Water Quality:
The Clearview Brine Reclamation Project



The Clearview Brine Reclamation Demonstration Project in east-central Oklahoma is a cooperative effort of the Water Quality Division of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, EPA, and the University of Oklahoma. Oil field development began decades ago in Clearview and oil production continues today, although the sheer density of wells in the field and historically poor environmental practices have contaminated the area's water resources.

The eroded landscape of the Clearview site is common to many old oil fields in the area. Because significant salts accumulate in the soil matrix, the soil is unable to support plant growth. Vegetation disappears, erosion increases, and with it, the discharge of salts and sediment into nearby creeks and rivers in this case, into Clearview Creek, which runs through the project area and discharges into Alabama Creek.

Long-term improvements expected

Once soil productivity and vegetative cover are reestablished, sediment and brine discharges will decrease and water quality will improve. Thus, the objective of the Clearview project was to improve soil productivity by increasing its organic matter content and correcting its dispersion potential to make it less erodible. Preproject field sampling and laboratory analytical work documented the contamination; postproject sampling will help evaluate the project's success.

The formerly intermittent creek has shown steady flow during every postproject monitoring event.

To begin the project, workers amended the impacted soil with a combination of fly ash, turkey litter, sulfur, and gypsum. Then they graded the site to establish proper drainage and mitigate the potential for soil erosion. Next, they sprigged the site with Bermuda grass to establish vegetative cover to control erosion and improve the soil simultaneously. Finally, they began a monitoring program to track the changes in soil, water, and vegetation resulting from the project.

Physical changes

To date, 10 months after the reclamation, water quality measurements have not shown any statistically significant improvements; however, significant qualitative improvements have been noted and may be seen in photographs taken of the site. In addition, the formerly intermittent creek has shown steady flow during every postproject monitoring event. Thus, continued long-term monitoring is expected to confirm that the project does lead to improved water quality and increased biological activity.

Perhaps the most successful aspect of the program has been the participation of community members, local conservation service staff members, agronomists, legislators, and other stakeholders. Their involvement was the more notable at this location because Clearview's land ownership patterns are complex and greatly increase the number of potentially affected parties. Only a committed populace with a stake in the success of the program could have reached consensus.


CONTACT: John Hassell
Water Quality Division Oklahoma Conservation Commission
(405) 858-2000

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