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BRYAN DEAN Modified: July 11, 2009 at 1:47 am •  Published: July 11, 2009
As more than 200 competitors in the WWA Wakeboard Championships enjoy the Oklahoma River this weekend, city officials are confident the river is clean.

But that could change quickly with a heavy dose of rain.

The river received negative publicity in May when some triathlon swimmers got sick because of high levels of bacteria, including E. coli.

There is little the city’s stormwater quality workers can do to stop bacteria levels from climbing when rainwater brings runoff, including waste from cattle and wildlife.

"It’s hard, because the river is kind of a living being and it changes constantly,” city spokeswoman Kristy Yager said. "It’s impossible to control what happens.”

Concerns about the quality of the riverwater are twofold.

Yager said although city workers can’t do much to control bacteria levels right now, they have stepped up monitoring to see where the problems are coming from, which tributaries are the worst contaminators and when and why bacteria levels spike.

Where city workers and residents have more control is the overall ecological health of the river, which suffers from dumping into stormwater drains.

Yager said chemicals from yard fertilizer, car washing and even backyard pools drained into the street can have consequences.

"The illegal dumping kills fish, frogs, beneficial plants and generally harms the ecology,” Yager said.

Raymond Melton, the city’s environmental protection manager, said he talks to neighborhood groups often and finds most people believe stormwater is treated before it goes into local creeks that run into the city’s four drainage basins, one of which is the Oklahoma River.

Tips for keeping pollutants

out of stormwater

Don’t: Overfertilize your lawn or use fertilizer improperly. Rainwater carries fertilizer into creeks and rivers where it creates algae that sap the waters’ oxygen.

Instead: Use only as much fertilizer as you need and closely follow instructions for applying it to a lawn.

Don’t: Drain your pool into stormwater drains. The chemicals in a pool are dangerous for fish, frogs and local plants living in creeks and rivers.

Instead: Use pool water to water your lawn or drain it somewhere it won’t get into stormwater drains.

Don’t: Wash your car in the driveway. Cleaning chemicals that run into storm drains, like pool chemicals, are harmful to wildlife.

Instead: Wash your car at a car wash. Drains at a car wash filter harsh chemicals before they can make their way into stormwater.

Don’t: Dump motor oil or other hazardous waste into storm drains. It is extremely dangerous for wildlife and can carry a fine of up to $700.

Instead: Use the city’s household hazardous waste disposal facility at 1621 S Portland Ave. It’s free for city residents who bring a utility bill to show residency.

Source: City of Oklahoma City


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