Officials researching source of Attoyac River contamination

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - By Donna McCollum - email

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) – For years a major water source feeding Sam Rayburn Reservoir has been declared an impaired water body.

High levels of E Coli are the concern.

Watershed stewards are now tracking and evaluating the sources.

Researchers enter the Attoyac River bottom.

They're at one of ten monitoring sites along a very muddy red dirt waterway.

It's just one of the inconveniences along the 82 mile stretch through four East Texas counties. A more serious concern is the elevated levels of E Coli.

"We collect samples every other week. We take water samples to test for nitrogen, phosphorous and bacteria," said research associate Darinda Dans.

It's the first step to linking the harmful bacteria with a source. It's sort of an environmental CSI.

"They'll actually go in and look at the DNA of these E Coli and trace them back to the source in the watershed. It could be wildlife, like wild hogs or deer. It could be cows or poultry or even human sources," said Dr. Matthew McBroom, a forest hydrologist.

Numerous collaborators will evaluate the data. The overall goal is to get the Attoyac Bayou off the Texas 303 D list.

That's a list of contaminated waterways. The classification, if ignored, could lead to strict regulations for landowners.

"That could have a negative impact on landowners within the watershed, but we don't expect it to go that far," said Anthony Castilaw, an environmental services coordinator.

Primarily because scientists have a hunch that people and their industries don't have anything to do with the high levels of the E Coli.

"My hypothesis, if I shot from the hip, I'm going to say 60% wildlife," said McBroom.

If correct, it could mean more appropriate water quality standards for the Bayou that's used for agriculture, recreation and feeds water sources.

The SFA waters of East Texas center and Agrilife extension want you to know more about the Attoyac Bayou.

A workshop on your role in protecting watersheds is scheduled for September 9th at SFA's college of forestry.

The all-day event begins at eight in the morning. The Bayou is used for agriculture, recreation and feeds  water sources.

©2010 KTRE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.