Texas A&M, SFA researchers work to improve quality of East Texas watersheds

Texas A&M, SFA researchers work to improve quality of East Texas watersheds
Updated: Oct. 2, 2019 at 2:58 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Researchers with two major universities and their respective agricultural extensions who are working to improve water quality in East Texas are already seeing positive results in at least one watershed.

For the last 10 years, a team of researchers from Texas A&M University and Stephen F. Austin State University has monitored and evaluated water quality in several East Texas watersheds.

In that decade, Associate dean and professor at SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Dr. Matthew McBroom has led SFA students to East Texas waterways. As they learn, scientists value the information the students gather.

"The result of our coordinated monitoring activity we found out E. coli bacteria was one of the chief pollutants here in East Texas," said McBroom.

At dangerously high levels. Sources were discovered, including cow paddies, dog feces, and deer and hog carcasses disposed near or in creeks.

Beef and poultry were contributors, but not to the degree as feral hogs. McBroom says the agriculture industry put into place improved management guidelines. And the state's aggressive attempt to lower hog populations can lead to cleaner waterways.

"One of the segments of the Attoyac has been delisted from the federal list of polluted waters, but a lot of upper reaches where we are continuing our monitoring still has some challenges," said McBroom.

The professor and his students will continue to monitor the Attoyac Bayou, as well as the Angelina River above Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Lanana Bayou and tributaries of the Middle and Lower Neches River.

SFA senior, Blake Reynolds of Lindale looks forward to entering the research on a professional level.

“Figuring out those kinds of environmental issues and actually finding benefits and creating ways to make the environment better, it’s so hard, but when you finally reach a point that it’s getting better it’s the most amazing feeling in the world,” said the student hoping to be hired by TCEQ.

For the last 10 years, a team of researchers from Texas A&M University and Stephen F. Austin...
For the last 10 years, a team of researchers from Texas A&M University and Stephen F. Austin State University has monitored and evaluated water quality in several East Texas watersheds. (Source: Donna McCollum, KTRE)(Donna McCollum KTRE)

The Attoyac Bayou was the first water body evaluated by the team. The bayou flows through portions of Rusk, Shelby, Nacogdoches, and San Augustine counties before emptying into San Rayburn Reservoir.

The bayou has recently seen part of its water quality improvement. In fact, McBroom pointed out the bayou was recently delisted from the federal list of polluted waters.

“A lot of the upper reaches where we’re still continuing our monitoring still has some challenges,” McBroom explained. “As we hopefully put more of these best-management practices in place -- as farmers and ranchers are able to implement this -- I think it will help.”

As McBroom pointed out, the predominant water quality impairment in many East Texas watersheds is bacteria.

“The state uses E. coli to monitor water quality in freshwater and indicate the potential presence of fecal pollution in a water body,” said Anna Giter, TWRI research associate. “Although E. coli is a naturally occurring bacteria found in the gastrointestinal system of all warm-blooded animals, high concentrations of this bacteria may indicate that a water body may be contaminated with fecal pathogens and pose a potential risk for human health.”

McBroom said the project team discusses the collected data with local stakeholders to determine which management practices will be most appropriate for the specific watershed.

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