New pollution data on Hinkson Creek have landowners and city officials saying they plan to take steps to protect the stream. Some steps already have been taken.
A study of the creek released Monday by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources shows pollutants such as E. coli bacteria, fertilizers, salt, petroleum, oil and insecticides mixing in the creek at levels high enough to kill aquatic life.
The data was gathered from a 11/2-mile section of the stream north of the Columbia landfill, extending to Broadway near Old 63, including parts of the stream that run next to the Broadway Marketplace shopping plaza and Missouri Transportation Department maintenance facility on Conley Road. Fourteen miles of the creek have been on the EPA’s list of impaired waters since 1998.
Plans for new storm-water basin
Craig Van Matre, a lawyer representing Broadway Marketplace developer Stan Kroenke, said he’s been talking with the city to create a Transportation Development District to buy six acres behind the plaza for a new storm-water basin. A TDD would have the authority to levy a special sales tax to help pay for the project.
A basin would help filter parking lot runoff, samples of which contained carbaryl, an insecticide common in lawn products.
Van Matre added that employees of the Wal-Mart Supercenter and Lowe’s stores have been told to cover fertilizers or remove them from the parking lot. A visit to the lot on Tuesday confirmed that fertilizers had been removed.
Meanwhile, Eric Schroeter, an operations engineer for the transportation department, said Tuesday that his department plans to come up with ways to build basins for the transportation department maintenance facility parking lot. The DNR study found oil and petroleum products in runoff there, along with salt levels nearly 1,000 times higher than normal. The lot houses petroleum and oil tanks and road building materials.
While Schroeter said the transportation department will do what it can to protect Hinkson Creek, he downplayed the significance of the DNR’s salt finding. He said the salt levels were high because the data were gathered in February 2003 after a snowmelt, when the department salts roads.
“We have hundreds of trucks coming in and out,” he said. “Our trucks get covered with salt and our lot does, too.”
And although DNR officials speculated Monday that the levels were the result of improperly stored salt on the transportation department lot, Schroeter said salt is always stored indoors.
He added that the department wants to figure out better ways to avoid chemical spills on the lot but couldn’t say whether it would create a specific plan.
Transportation maintenance may relocate
Also, Van Matre said the transportation maintenance facility might be relocated if Kroenke and his associates can negotiate a deal for the land.
Van Matre said he’s talking to transportation officials about removing the facility to make room for an extension of Conley Road to Business Loop 70 and a redesigned Columbia Country Club golf course.
Schroeter said the deal is a long way from reality and there’s no written agreement to relocate.
Meanwhile, city officials are also putting together ways to help Hinkson Creek.
Public Works Director Lowell Patterson said Tuesday the city is studying the DNR’s data and waiting for further instructions. DNR officials said Monday they plan to draft a letter offering instructions to the city soon.
Patterson noted that it’s possible E. coli could have leaked in the stream while the city was repairing sewer lines, but he had no records of work done when the DNR was collecting samples.
More data to come
Others noted the data is the first in a series of reports due out on Hinkson Creek in the upcoming months.
Ken Midkiff of the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club said he’s anxious to see the complete study of the stream that details a relationship between fish kills in the creek and pollutants.
Van Matre stressed that it’s going to take years to fix the creek’s problem.
“It’s naive, foolish, to think a problem that was a created 100 years ago will be solved in 10 days,” he said.
DNR representatives estimate the water quality study on Hinkson Creek will take three years, but a complete plan for protecting the creek will take much longer.