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|ULM lands grant for water study in Ouachita|
State and federal agencies recently awarded the University of Louisiana-Monroe roughly $400,000 to monitor local water quality and educate the public about ways to reduce non-point source pollution.
Non-point source pollution (NPS), unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many widespread sources. It is caused by rainfall moving over and through the ground, according to Dr. Kevin N. Baer, head of ULM's Department of Toxicology.
As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them in bayous, rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters and even underground sources of drinking water, Baer said.
"They are a major problem in the environment and hard to control," Baer said.
Toxicology undergraduate and graduate students will participate in the research, which is being funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
The first grant, approved by both EPA and DEQ, provided combined funding of $328,029 over a 42-month period to identify and reduce non-point source pollutants to Bayou DeSiard in the Ouachita River Basin.
Baer said residential areas along Bayou DeSiard provide non-point source pollutants, primarily due to storm water runoff and the use of agricultural chemicals. Grease and oil runoff from Monroe's city streets and other paved areas are another source.
Activities for the project will involve targeted water quality monitoring during rain events, known as a "first flush," which generally contains the highest level of pollutants, to identify the major categories of NPS pollution and locations.
Once those categories are identified, management practices may be implemented, including infrastructure improvements, according to Baer. The project will track water quality improvement to determine if the programs have been successful.
Structural improvements could include vegetated efforts, such as basin landscaping and parking lot planting areas, or asphalt paving that soaks up the rainfall and helps the city to avoid areas of runoff. Building pervious parking lots around businesses and waterfront yards in residential areas will increase awareness of successful best management practices implementation, Baer said.
Other educational programs will address nutrient and pesticide management for home and golf courses, sediment and erosion control practices for construction sites, and public awareness on the impact of fecal coliform bacteria to area water bodies.
Also, storm drain marking programs will educate the public about how storm water runoff enters drains, Baer said.
Surveys will also be developed to measure the performance of education programs impacting Bayou DeSiard. A quality assurance project plan must be submitted to officials for review before any monitoring can begin.
LDEQ officials also approved close to $84,000 for Baer and his students to determine what is contributing to the unacceptable water quality in the Big Creek area of Grant Parish, near Alexandria. They will monitor along the Big Creek watershed to identify potential sources of contamination.
"Unacceptable water quality has already been observed by officials, and because Big Creek is a drinking water source and an outstanding natural resource, we'll want to determine what is contributing to the problem as quickly as possible," Baer said.