By MICHELLE CASADY
The levels of E.coli bacteria in Carters and Burton creeks, while not a public health concern, have been recorded at more than six times the accepted level, according to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality guidelines.
A report on levels in the central Brazos County creeks was recently presented to the Commissioners Court by Lucas Gregory, project manager with the Texas Water Resources Institute, which is a division of Texas AgriLife Research and Extension.
Gregory said Carters Creek was first flagged for elevated bacteria levels in 1999, and Burton Creek made the list in 2006.
The type of E.coli in the waterways is not pathogenic, meaning the biggest problem anyone would have after drinking the water is a stomachache, Gregory said.
The pollutants are from fecal matter from humans, livestock and wild animals, municipal storm sewer systems and on-site sewage facilities.
"In general, as an area becomes urbanized, the water quality declines," he said. "It's a slow process, and it might be an unrealistic goal, but we hope to get down to that recommended level."
According to the report, which also outlines plans for improving the water quality, water samples in the creeks came back with as many as 856 colonies in a 100 mL sample, when the state sets the accepted level at 126.
But Ron Stein and Jason Leifester with the TCEQ said those numbers, while high, are manageable.
"The levels in Bryan and College Station are really not that bad," Stein said. "There are other areas of the state where the problem is unmanageable. This is not one, but it's going to take some time."
Gregory worked with several stakeholders, including representatives from Bryan, College Station, Brazos County, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas A&M and Texas Department of Transportation, to put together the report and come up with ideas on how to improve the water quality.
Some of those measures are to expand the water quality testing in the watershed, create a list of all on-site septic facilities located along the watershed and work to educate owners about maintenance and inspections, and talking to owners of agricultural land along the watershed about voluntarily implementing best management practices to reduce the amount of fecal matter they contribute to the creeks.
"It can be as simple as making sure the streets are swept regularly and that there's adequate trash pick up," Gregory said. "That all helps to improve the water quality."
There isn't a preliminary budget yet for how much the project will cost to implement, but Gregory said funding will come from grants mostly and some from environmental groups.