An advocacy group is questioning a consulting firm’s analysis that classifies the upper Hinkson Creek as unswimmable. If the creek is so classified, it would require less treatment of sewage discharged into its watershed than if it were classified differently.
An analysis performed for the Boone County Regional Sewer District concluded that the section of Hinkson Creek north of Interstate 70 is not deep enough for swimming and other “whole-body” recreation.
But Scott Hamilton, an urban conservationist for Show-Me Clean Streams said surveyors measured the depth of riffles, or shallow areas, and measured only near roads and bridges.
After reviewing the consultants’ report, water-quality officials with the state Department of Natural Resources recommended reclassifying the upper Hinkson from “whole-body-contact recreation” to “secondary-contact recreation,” a designation that includes recreational uses such as fishing, shallow wading and canoeing.
The state is recommending that Hinkson Creek below I-70 retain its “whole-body” designation.
The classifications are important because they will determine the levels of fecal coliform bacteria that may be present in the stream. If the upper Hinkson retains its whole-body classification, the sewer district would be required to disinfect the substances flowing into it.
Show-Me Clean Streams questioned why the Department of Natural Resources would accept measurements submitted by a utility that has a financial stake in how the upper Hinkson is classified.
Show-Me Clean Streams did its own analysis during the drought earlier this summer. Taking measurements of pools in the stream, the group concluded that the upper Hinkson would meet state standards for swimming. The group also found evidence of swimming, such as a rope swing.
Public comment on the sewer district’s analysis ended Wednesday. Seventeen comments were received by the Department of Natural Resources.
Individuals’ comments included personal accounts of time spent on the Hinkson and witnesses to others’ enjoyment of the stream. “Whole-body” activities included swimming, kayak “rolling,” cleaning the stream and exploring the stream’s ecosystem.
Phil Schroeder, a section chief in charge of water quality for the Department of Natural Resources, said that once all comments have been processed, they would be reviewed by a department committee and could change the initial staff recommendation.
Barr Engineering of Jefferson City received a contract from the sewer district for about $27,000 to analyze the Hinkson and seven other streams in Boone County. Barr Vice President Alan Fandrey said his firm used criteria provided by the Natural Resources Department to conduct its survey.
Under new standards being considered by the Missouri Clean Water Commission, the sewer district could have to pay $1 million to $2 million to disinfect outflow from treatment centers that discharge into streams with a “whole-body” classification, said Tom Ratermann, general manager of the sewer district.
The upper Hinkson is among several local streams that are part of a court-mandated statewide review to decide which waterways should receive bacterial decontamination. The rule-making is designed to meet standards in the federal Clean Water Act. The state’s decisions will be subject to approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Department of Natural Resources will post its findings today on its Web site, www.dnr.mo.gov, after reviewing public comments. The Clean Water Commission is scheduled to meet Sept. 7 to decide on the department’s recommendations.