Water Quality


The basin has streams classified for all beneficial uses designated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR 1996c) (Table Wq01).

In addition to stream use classifications, there are three lakes which have been given beneficial use designations. These are: Oscie Ora Acres, a 50-acre Class 3 lake located at T28N, R33W, S10 in Jasper County-classified for livestock watering and aquatic life; Kellogg Lake, a 25-acre Class 3 lake located at T29N, R31W, S34 in Jasper County-classified for livestock watering, aquatic life, whole body contact recreation, and boating; and Lamar City Lake, a 180-acre Class 4 lake located at T32N, R30W, S32 in Barton County-classified for livestock watering, aquatic life, and drinking water supply.


In the early days of mining in the area, acid-mine water was pumped into the streams as a result of dewatering the mines. Poor water quality has become the end result of this practice (Davis and Schumacher 1992). The effect this practice has had on the streams in the basin has been reviewed by Davis and Schumacher (1992) and is evident from the summaries (taken from Davis and Schumacher 1992) listed below.

The Oronogo-Duenweg mining belt is found almost entirely within the Center Creek sub-basin. Discharges from mining operations have affected the lower portion of the stream. Artesian flow from shafts and subsurface seepage are the primary sources of contamination during low-flow. Seepage and runoff from tailing piles are the principle sources of contamination in the stream during high flow.

In addition, nitrate and ammonia are discharged into Center Creek from local industries causing the nitrogen levels to exceed the standard discharge allowance during periods of low-flow. Biological summaries of the area indicate that the water quality above Grove Creek is good while that below Grove Creek declines. Some improvement did occur immediately downstream from Grove Creek in the 1980s, possibly due to better quality control.

Turkey Creek is one of the most polluted streams of the region based on benthic collections and chemical analysis (Missouri Clean Water Commission 1974). The creek receives effluent from wastewater facilities, industry, and abandoned mines and tailing piles (Davis and Schumacher 1992).

Short Creek has water quality problems as a result of mine-water seepage and runoff from a smelter plant. Benthic life was limited to filamentous algae (Davis and Schumacher 1992).

Shoal Creek has been identified as having very good water quality. Adverse impacts on the stream are minimal and consist of effluent from the Joplin and Neosho treatment facilities which had problems only historically. Since these facilities were renovated, the stream has had no pollution problems associated with the facilities.

The headwaters of the Spring River are characterized by good chemical and biological water quality. Water quality has been affected by dioxin in the Verona area. Further downstream, the river is affected by industrial and municipal discharges. Even downstream, the chemical and biological quality of the water remains good.

Davis and Schumacher (1992)completed a thorough summary of the chemical water quality characteristics of the basin in Missouri and Kansas. Extensive statistical tests were conducted to determine water quality upstream from the major tributaries and mining influence (Spring River near Waco) and downstream from all the major tributaries (Baxter Springs, Kansas). The water quality and chemical property summaries (Table Wq02) are taken from Davis and Schumacher (1992).

Center, Turkey, and Short creeks drain approximately 93% of the lead-zinc mined areas of the watershed. These creeks drain 70%, 18%, and 5% of this area, respectively. High concentrations of calcium, sulfate, dissolved solids, and zinc reflect this. In addition, these three streams are affected by municipal and industrial discharges. The water quality of the Spring River deteriorates downstream from these streams.

There are substantial affects of mining on water quality downstream from Center Creek near Smithfield and Turkey Creek near Joplin. Spearman rank coefficients become less negative moving upstream from the areas influenced by mining.

Total phosphorus concentrations decrease downstream from the Center Creek stations due to the aging of the phospho-gypsum piles and the decrease in use of phosphate containing detergents.

There are downward trends in sulfate concentrations, specific conductance, calcium, and zinc concentrations at the stations which were affected by mining (Center Creek near Smithfield, Turkey Creek near Joplin, and Spring River near Baxter Springs, Kansas). In addition, increasing trends for pH values at these stations indicate that water quality in the watershed is improving with time.

A Level III health advisory was issued during the late 1980s for all fish species in the Spring River between Verona and Hoberg in Lawrence County due to dioxin contamination from runoff at a manufacturing plant near Verona. A level III advisory is issued for a species or area if most of the fish which are tested have contaminant concentrations above levels of concern. Under this advisory, the specified fish should not be eaten. This advisory was lifted in 1993. There are currently no advisories listed for the basin.

Fish kills have been investigated throughout the watershed since the 1970s. Eighty-two fish kills were investigated between 1979 and 1994 (Table Wq03). Of these, 18 were from Grove Creek, seven from Turkey Creek, and five from Center Creek. Industrial and municipal sources are the most common causes cited for fish kills in the investigation reports.


Many of the municipalities in the basin use wells for all or part of their public water supplies. These municipalities are Aurora, Diamond, Freistatt, Granby, Jasper, Joplin, Monett, Neosho, and Pierce City.

The basin also has three public water supply surface withdrawals. These are: Lamar Lake for the City of Lamar, SW,SW T32N, R30W, S32; Shoal Creek for the City of Joplin, NE,NE T27N, R33W, S28; and Shoal Creek for the City of Neosho, SW,SW T25N, R31W, S7 (MDNR 1996b).


Point source pollution in the basin affects the main stem of the Spring River, the major sub-basins in the watershed, as well as several smaller tributaries. There are sewage treatment facilities which discharge into streams located near Alba, Aurora, Carl Junction, Carthage, Diamond, Freistatt, Golden City, Granby, Jasper, Joplin, Lamar, Marionville, Miller, Monett, Mt. Vernon, Neosho, Pierce City, Sarcoxie, Stotts City, and Verona.

There are industries, subdivisions, mobile home parks, mines, and motels which also have permits to discharge into streams in the area. The Neosho National Fish Hatchery, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), also has a permit to discharge into Hickory Creek near Neosho. Grove Creek, Center Creek, Shoal Creek, Turkey Creek, and the mainstem of the Spring River seem to be the most heavily impacted. A list of the permitted point sources in the basin is found in Table Wq04. Stormwater permits for the region are found in Table Wq05. To report incidents of pollution contact the Department of Natural Resources.


Several sources of nonpoint pollution have been identified in the watershed (MDNR 1996b). The majority of the nonpoint problems identified are problems associated with mining (chat, tailings, or outfalls) or animal husbandry (turkey or poultry and dairy operations). The North Fork of the Spring River has a basin-wide nonpoint source problem associated with farming chemicals which have reached the groundwater supply (MDNR 1996b). Trihalomethanes have also been found in the Lamar Lake watershed drinking supply. Industrial waste, various chemicals (NH3-N and dioxin), high fecal coliform levels, and groundwater contamination with oil have also been identified as sources of nonpoint pollution problems in the basin. Site descriptions for nonpoint pollution sources given by MDNR (1996b).

Table Wq01: Beneficial use classification for the Spring River Basin

Beneficial use classification for the Spring River Basin.

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Table Wq02: Chemical water quality summary for the Spring River Basin

Chemical water quality summary for the Spring River Basin.

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Table Wq03: Fish kill summary for the Spring River Basin from 1979-1995

Fish kill summary for the Spring River Basin from 1979-1995.

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Table Wq04: Permitted point sources in the Spring River Basin

Permitted point sources in the Spring River Basin.

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Table Wq05: Permitted stormwater discharges in the Spring River Basin

Permitted stormwater discharges in the Spring River Basin.

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