Draft water quality report shows degradation

WyoFile staff report
— November 21, 2014

A draft water quality report shows new surface water degradation across Wyoming, as well as improvements, and officials want residents to comment on the findings.

The report is compiled to meet requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality wants residents to submit comments — but not by email — by 5 p.m. Dec. 29.

The report is available here.

The report lists eight new stream or river segments DEQ proposes be classified as impaired and requiring measurements to determine total maximum daily loads of pollutants. It also lists improvements on 23 waterways.

The last change in the list was two years ago.

Twin Creek and Little Popo Agie River in the Bighorn Basin don’t support aquatic life, other than fish, due to sedimentation and oil and grease.

The Roaring Fork in the Snake River Basin is degraded downstream from a tributary draining the Standard Mine, the report says.

In the North Platte River Basin, Bear and Rambler creeks are candidates for the list, along with the Little Medicine Bow River. Small segments of the creeks, each shorter than a mile, do not support aquatic life other than fish. Twenty-six miles of the river has a similar problem.

In the Snake River Basin, selenium pollutes Cow Creek from the Idaho boarder to the confluence with the Salt River, about a 7-mile reach. The creek doesn’t support aquatic life, other than cold-water fish, the report says.

The DEQ proposes to recognize 31 improvements or “de-listings” on 23 waterways. It also summarized the extent of the new problems and their causes.

“The majority of impaired stream miles are caused by E. coli/fecal coliform, selenium, sediment, flow alterations, habitat alterations and arsenic,” the draft report says. “Sources of pollutants are mostly unknown, natural sources, livestock grazing, irrigated agriculture and petroleum production.”

DEQ assessed 17,770 miles of waterways, slightly more than 6 percent of the state’s ephemeral, intermittent and perennial streams. Assessments place waterways in one of five categories, category 1 being the cleanest and 5 indicating serious pollution.

The draft report places the bulk — 89 percent of waterway miles — in category 2 that shows some impairment. Eight percent of the river miles are in category 5.

E. Coli and Fecal Coliform bacteria pollution accounts for 952 miles of impairment. The report lists selenium as a problem on 375 miles, sediment on 311 miles and flow alterations along 198 miles.

Unknown sources account for 40 percent of impairment, the draft says. It attributes 16 percent of impairment to natural sources, and 15 percent each to livestock grazing and irrigated agriculture.

Below is the notice DEQ issued regarding the report and comment period.

The Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ), Water Quality Division (WQD) regulates surface water quality and implements the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) in Wyoming. Section 305(b) of CWA requires that a report of the surface water quality condition of each state be provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) every two years by April 1st of even numbered years. In addition, Section 303(d) requires that a list of the impaired waters requiring Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) be submitted to EPA for approval. Wyoming’s Integrated 305(b) and 303(d) Report combines the requirements of both sections into a single document. Wyoming recently completed a draft of the 2014 Integrated 305(b) and 303(d) Report and is soliciting public comment. The draft document can be downloaded here. A 45-day public comment period, extending from November 14, 2014 to December 29, 2014, has been provided for the 2014 Draft Integrated 305(b) and 303(d) Report. Written comments should be submitted to Richard Thorp at WDEQ/WQD, Herschler Building 4-W, 122 West 25th Street, Cheyenne, WY 82002 or faxed to (307) 777-5973 by 5:00 PM December 29, 2014. E-mailed comments will not be accepted. Questions may be directed to Richard Thorp at (307) 777-3501 or richard.thorp@wyo.gov.

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