STORM WATER INFORMATION
The portion of the Missouri River in Jackson County is on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources 303d impaired waters list. The 303d list includes waters in the polluted water category, for which beneficial uses– such as drinking, recreation, aquatic habitat, and industrial use – are impaired by pollution. The Missouri River is on the list because the levels of E. Coli in the River exceed the maximum allowable levels.
How does this affect the City of Sugar Creek? The high levels of E. Coli in the River could be harmful to aquatic life. The E. Coli contamination is coming from nonpoint source pollution in watersheds that drain to the Missouri River, some of which likely comes from within the Sugar Creek City Limits. Both Mill Creek and Sugar Creek drain directly to the Missouri River.
What is E.coli?
E. coli is a naturally occurring bacteria that lives in the lower intestines of warm-blooded mammals. E. coli belongs to a group of bacteria, some of which are harmful, known as fecal coliform. E. coli is necessary for the digestion of food but its presence in rivers indicates fecal contamination. Common sources of E.coli include overflowing septic fields and sewage systems, and fecal matter from wildlife and pets.
At what level does E. coli become a concern?
The Environmental Protection Agency had designated a federal standard that no single samples shall exceed 235 colonies/100 mL. This number is obtained using laboratory testing of E. coli water samples.
The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in aquatic environments indicates that the water has been contaminated with the fecal material of man or other animals. At the time this occurred, the source water may have been contaminated by pathogens or disease producing bacteria or viruses which can also exist in fecal material.
What Can We Do?
Maintain Septic Tanks
Leaking septic systems can be a contributor to high levels of E. Coli in rivers. Just like any other tool or appliance, a septic tank needs to be maintained to function properly. A septic tank allows solids, greases, and liquids to separate in the tank. Bacteria break down the solids and the liquid is treated as it moves into the absorption field. A properly working septic system shouldn’t release anything that’s harmful to you or the environment. Septic systems should be routinely inspected and pumped. Also, an adequate vegetative cover should be maintained over the drain field.
Find Other Ways To Water Livestock
There are many options for reducing the impact of livestock on water quality. The most efficient way to improve water quality is to block animals from directly accessing streams, rivers, and other water bodies. Livestock trample the stream bank and deposit feces, allowing higher E. coli levels. Limit access with fences and provide alternative drinking water sources. If you pasture livestock, consider creating a rotational grazing system that reduces pasture erosion and allows the vegetation time to grow. Planting or maintaining vegetative buffer strips between animals and surface water is also an effective way to filter agricultural runoff. Berms and ditches can be used to divert runoff away from stockpiled manure. Manure piles should be kept out of the rain and away from creeks.
Pick Up Pet Waste
It’s simple to reduce nonpoint source pollution from pet waste - just pick up after your pet. Pet waste contributes to nutrient and E. coli nonpoint source pollution. Pet stores and large retail stores carry small plastic bags for picking up pet waste. Biodegradable bags are even available for purchase.
Each gram of dog waste (equivalent to about half a teaspoon) contains 20,000,000 E. coli bacteria colonies. Unless disposed of properly, these bacteria are washed into our waterways when it rains.
For more information on what the City of Sugar Creek is doing to address nonpoint source pollution, please contact the Sugar Creek Department of Public Works.