Beneficial Use Attainment
The Sac River basin has 173 miles of streams classified as supporting whole body contact recreation (MDNR 1986). McDaniel Lake, Fellows Lake, and Fulbright Spring Branch are the only waters designated for drinking water supply in the Sac River basin (8 miles total) (MDNR 1986). Water quality problems for the Sac River basin noted in 1994 by the MDNR were suspended solids in Stockton Branch originating from the town of Stockton (two miles of affected stream) and nutrient pollution of McDaniel and Fellows lakes from urban/agricultural sources. Another area of concern was potential groundwater contamination from various sources (faulty septic tanks, leaking storage tanks, agricultural runoff, etc.) in the area around Springfield (MDNR 1996).
All streams and lakes in the Sac River basin are classified for aquatic life protection and livestock/wildlife watering. McDaniel Lake is classified for drinking water supply as well as aquatic life protection and livestock/wildlife watering. In addition to these previously mentioned uses, Stockton Lake includes whole body contact and Fellows Lake includes whole body contact and boating and canoeing as designated uses. Chesapeake Creek from its mouth upstream for 3 miles and 14 miles of Turnback Creek (T30N, R26W, section 35 to T28N, R25W, section 24) are classified for cold water fisheries. Cedar Creek from its mouth upstream for 27 miles is classified for whole body contact, boating, and canoeing. Brush Creek from its mouth upstream 13 miles is classified for whole body contact and cool water fishery. The lower 24.5 miles of Horse Creek have irrigation as an approved designated use. The Little Sac River from McDaniel Lake Dam to its mouth (lower 29 miles) is classified for whole body contact, boating and canoeing, and cool water fishery. The Sac River from Stockton Lake Dam downstream for 40 miles is classified for whole body contact, boating and canoeing, and irrigation. The Sac River from Stockton Lake upstream for 32.5 miles is also classified for these uses. Turnback Creek is classified for whole body contact from its mouth upstream for 33.5 miles and for boating and canoeing in the lower 14 miles.
Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act requires states to report on the status of water quality in their surface waters. The MDNR summarizes the quality of Missouri waters every two years in these reports. Significant improvements have been made over the past quarter century in controlling pollution from sanitary wastes, such as that from cities, but major work still remains to restore waters that suffer from non-point source pollution. The Little Sac River from McDaniel Lake to Stockton Reservoir and the Sac River from Stockton Dam to Hwy J are listed as 305(b) impaired streams.
Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to list waters not expected to meet established, state water quality standards even after application of conventional technology-based controls for which total maximum daily load (TMDL) studies have not yet been completed. The list is produced every four years by the MDNR and includes waters for which existing required pollution controls are not stringent enough to maintain state water quality standards. Examples of waters on this list include streams below coal or lead mining areas, streams or lakes with pesticide problems, rivers that have problems related to dams, and streams that were channelized long ago. The Little Sac River watershed is included in Missouri's 303(d) listings. Water quality problems listed as 303(d) impairments are fecal coliform suspected as originating from the Springfield Northwest Waste Water Treatment Plant, and agricultural/suburban non-point source nutrient pollution of Fellows and McDaniel lakes.
There are approximately 1,300 miles of impaired streams and 1,013 impaired lake acres found within the Sac River basin. Sources of biological impairment include damming, riparian degradation, channel alteration, urbanization, flow alteration, sedimentation, point source pollution, and non-point source pollution.
For more information, contact DNR's Water Pollution Control Program at 1-800-361-4827 or (573) 751-1300
Chemical Quality of Stream Flow
The EPA index of watershed indicators report on ambient water quality monitoring of copper, nickel, zinc, chromium, phosphorus, pH, dissolved oxygen, and ammonia in the Sac River basin found that levels exceeded established criteria in less than 10 percent of the observations (EPA website 1999).
Water quality problems associated with increased urban development are an ongoing concern in the Little Sac portion of the Sac River basin. Population increases in the Springfield metropolitan area are the primary reason for increased nutrification and algal growth in the Little Sac watershed. Occasionally high phosphate, nitrate, and sulfate levels are likely due to localized agricultural practices, overflow from the northwest treatment plant, or leachate from the Springfield landfill (Sparks and Pavlowsky, 2000).
For detailed information, call Watershed Committee of the Ozarks at (417) 866-1127.
Contaminants, Fish Kills, and Health Advisories
Reports of pollution and fish kills have increased in recent years. This may be the result of increased pollution events, increased environmental awareness and activism, better monitoring by state and federal agencies, or a combination of these factors. Table Wq01 lists pollution investigations involving MDC from 1977 through 2000.
With the exception of largemouth bass, fish in the Sac River basin are considered safe to eat in any amount (MDOH 1999). Women who are pregnant, who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children 12 years of age or younger should not eat largemouth bass more than 12 inches in length statewide because of concerns over Mercury levels in the tissues of these fish.
High utilization of groundwater in and around the Springfield metropolitan area has cased a cone of depression to form in the water table (Barnett et al 1985). This cone of depression will expand, may cause shallow wells to go dry, and increase pumping costs for groundwater users in the area. Groundwater yields from bedrock range from 2 to 40 gallons per minute per foot of drawdown (MDNR 1986). The quality of the groundwater ranges from good to excellent throughout the basin (MDNR 1986). Water use is highest in Greene County (Springfield) and second highest in Cedar County (Stockton Lake power generation) (MDNR 1986). There are four public water supply districts in the Sac River basin (MDNR 1986). In 1996, City Utilities of Springfield constructed a pipeline to pump water from Stockton Lake to Fellows Lake (Watershed Committee of the Ozarks 1999). The two public water supply surface water intakes in the basin are on Fellows Lake and McDaniel Lake (MDNR 1986). Water use in the Sac River basin in Missouri is about 10.9 trillion gallons per year. Public and domestic use accounts for 7.4 trillion galllons, industrial/commercial for 920 million gallons, and agriculture for 2.5 trillion gallons (Ducharme and Miller 1996). Table Wq02 and Figure Wq01 show the public water facilities in the Sac River basin.
Point Source Pollution
Several waste water treatment facilities (WWTF) in the basin have historically violated their discharge permits. As population increases are occurring these problems are likely to increase. Water quality concerns associated with point sources were listed in the Missouri Water Quality Basin Plan (MDNR 1996). The problems associated with point source discharges at this time included: problems meeting the permit limits for nickel and cadium at the Republic WWTF affecting 3 miles of unclassified stream; potential for instream toxicity of ammonia in the Little Sac River below Springfield's Northwest WWTF; 0.2 miles of an unclassified stream minimally impacted by two Greenfield WWTFs; dissolved oxygen depletion and discoloration problems in receiving streams from the Fair Play South WWTF; and dissolved oxygen depletion and discoloration from the Stockton WWTF caused a partial loss of beneficial use of Stockton Branch.
The Clean Water Act requires wastewater dischargers to have a permit establishing pollution limits, and specifying monitoring and reporting requirements. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits regulate household and industrial wastes that are collected in sewers and treated at municipal wastewater treatment plants. These permits also regulate industrial point sources and concentrated animal feeding operations that discharge into other wastewater collection systems or that discharge directly into receiving waters. Table Wq03 lists NPDES permitted point source discharges in the Sac River basin.
The Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) is an EPA generated source of information about toxic chemicals that are being used, manufactured, treated, transported, or released into the environment from various sources. Table Wq04 lists toxic release inventory facilities in the Sac River basin.
Hazardous waste information is tracked by state and federal agencies as part of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA maintains this information in a database called the Resource Conservation and Recovery Information System (RCRIS). Table Wq05 lists various facilities in the Sac River basin that generate, transport, treat, or dispose of hazardous wastes that are monitored under RCRA.
Air emissions of pollutants are reported as part of the Aerometric Information Retrieval System (AIRS). The AIRS facility subsystem (AFS) contains information on compliance and emissions of facilities with air pollution point sources that are monitored by EPA and/or state regulatory agencies. Table Wq06 lists facilities with airborne pollutant emissions in the Sac River basin.
Years ago, many wastes were dumped on the ground, in rivers, or left out in the open. As a result, thousands of uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites were created. Some common hazardous waste sites include abandoned warehouses, manufacturing facilities, processing plants, and landfills. In response to growing concern over health and environmental risks posed by hazardous waste sites, Congress established the Superfund Program in 1980 to clean up these sites. The Superfund Program is administered by the EPA in cooperation with individual states throughout the United States. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS) is the official repository for site and non-site specific Superfund data in support of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). It contains information on hazardous waste site assessment and remediation from 1983 to the present. Table Wq07 lists inactive superfund sites in the Sac River basin.
Non-Point Source Pollution
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
Total effect from livestock in the basin was estimated to be 3,850,000 population equivalency (MDNR 1985). Animal feeding operations are starting to increase throughout the basin and corporate hog feeding operations are increasing north and west of Stockton Lake (Kevin Hess, MDNR, pers. comm.). Livestock is the most significant source of non-point pollution in the Sac River basin (MDNR 1996). Missouri as a state ranks second in the U.S. in the number of cattle operations and fifth in total number of cattle (NASS 2000). Lawrence County is the number one county in Missouri for cattle and calf population, and Polk County is the number one hay producing county in Missouri (MASS 2000) and also ranks very high in cattle and calves. Both of these counties lie partly within the Sac River basin. The basin as a whole is one of the top cattle and hay producing areas in Missouri. Pastured cattle and fertilization for hay production and subsequent nutrient runoff may contribute to the nutrification of watershed streams.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) that have more than 1,000 animal units in Missouri are regulated by MDNR. MDNR CAFO regulations require (based on the number of animal units) a specified area of vegetated land be available and used for the spreading of waste. If enough land is not available, the waste must be hauled and spread elsewhere, sold, or contained in closed lagoons. Land application of animal waste has added to soil productivity and improved pasture and hay production. These elements led to an unquantified increase in land clearing and cattle production in the Elk River basin of southwest Missouri (G. Parsons and V. Kugler, MDNR, pers. com.). A similar relationship probably exists in the Sac River basin. It is thought that some CAFO operators, who land apply dry waste, may over-apply the manure. Phosphorus contamination of streams in the watershed is inevitable if wastes are over-applied. In recent years, the number of CAFOs (primarily hog operations) have increased in the northwest portion of the watershed. Table Wq08 and Figure Wq02 show the CAFOs found in the Sac River watershed.
Watershed land use was listed as approximately 50% row crops, pasture, and hayfield and 50% forest from 1985 through 1995 (MDNR 1985; MDNR 1996). Land in cultivation and pasture production has probably increased throughout the watershed as the number of CAFOs have increased.
Sheet and rill erosion on tilled and pasture lands is 2.5-5 tons/acre/year. Sheet and rill erosion on non-grazed forest is less than 0.25 tons/acre/year. Gully erosion is slight, with less than 0.15 tons/acre/year. These figures are low and agricultural erosion is not considered a basin-wide problem. Sediment yield by streams in the Sac River basin is 0.3--1.0 tons/acre/year, primarily from sheet and rill erosion (Anderson 1980). Helicopter video taken in 2000 revealed localized streambank erosion problems throughout the watershed.
Water quality problems associated with increased urban development are an ongoing concern in the Little Sac River sub-basin (MDNR 1985; MDNR 1996). Little Sac River headwaters originate in the Springfield area. Springfield is the fastest growing metro area in the state. Including the urbanized area outside the city limits, the population figure is 240,500. Population in the greater Springfield area (40 mile radius) is 476,574 (U.S. Census Bureau 2000). Due to the weathering of the limestone and karst features in the Springfield area, urban runoff is a threat to groundwater. Increasing algae and nutrients in local reservoirs are the suspected cause of odor and taste problems in the drinking water supply (MDNR 1996). The abandoned Fullbright and Sac River landfills are in close proximity to the Little Sac River and have leached low levels of chemicals into the local aquifer (MDNR 1996). During the building of Springfield's northwest treatment plant, a leachate interception drain was constructed to stop the leaching of toxic metals and organic compounds into the Little Sac River. Today, the abandoned landfills are not thought to exert an environmental impact on the river (MDNR 1996).
Little information on gravel mining (including removal of gravel from streambeds) is known for the Sac River basin. There is one permitted gravel mining operation on Limestone Creek. There are many small localized areas where it appears landowners have removed gravel from or re-arranged gravel bars to use on farm roads and/or to prevent bank erosion. Another type of rock mining that is significant in the Sac River basin is limestone quarrying. Coal mining affects the Horse and Cedar creek drainages with the potential for acid drainage to reduce water quality. To date the effects have not been significant. (MDNR 1996). In the past, mining of lead, zinc, and iron was conducted in the Sac River basin. Most of this mining activity has ceased, but old mine shafts and mine tailings can be found and may create water quality problems with leaching of materials or by providing avenues for mixing of surface waters with groundwater. Figure Wq03 shows the locations of past and present mining operations of the Sac River Basin. Table Wq09 contains the known information about non-point pollution in the Sac River basin. Known information on gravel, limestone, and mineral mining in the Sac River basin is presented in Appendix B.