Council learns that cleansing the springs
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By E. Alan Long
EUREKA SPRINGS -- Dr. Phil Hays of the United States Geological Survey addressed
the conditions of the springs in Eureka Springs during Monday night's city
While attempting to sound positive, Hays' report included findings of the past
year showing the presence of pervasive contaminants such as plasticizers and
flame retardants, along with microbial contaminants, making the water
effectively dangerous to touch, much less drink.
Still, funding sources, such as the Walton Foundation, Environmental Protection
Agency , the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the Arkansas Department of
Environmental Quality, could be utilized to correct the problem, which has
existed since at least 1981.
Hays stated that sources of pollution, such as the city's aging sewer system,
have to be identified, with corrective steps following.
While money is tight, $6,000 in federal funds is available this year, with
another $6,000 possibly available in 2010, Hays said, adding that the USGS sees
Eureka Springs' springs as an important issue and will actively seek funding
sources. Much of the funding is available on a three-to-one match.
The USGS will match funding as well to sample and analyze some of the springs.
The first priority, Hays said, is to collect data on contaminants, which
includes a "broad list of pervasive chemicals."
Ultimately, Hayes said, the USGS will move to identify sources of pollution,
both real and potential, to create a source management plan and corrective
steps, taking into account the city's curbing and aging sewer infrastructure.
Hayes stated that the USGS has "no interest in one-week synopses," and that what
he is proposing will "get the ball rolling."
In response to a question by council member Joyce Zeller, Butch Berry, acting as
chairman in the absence of Mayor Dani Joy, stated that if sewer lines are found
to be a significant source, the city could get for money to fix them with the
USGS as a willing partner help to find funding.
Hays stated that the agency has early data from 1992, and microbial contaminants
have been identified, and the survey now has a Northwest Arkansas office for a
better presence in the region.
With 150 constituents to look at to understand specific sources, he noted that
in 2002 through 2004, the USGS did not have the capacity to analyze the
situation, but that technology has improved, adding to the popular view of
support for a larger study.
Pointing to success story in Austin, Texas, where a long-term effort produced
excellent quality water, Hays said he was adamant that the city "can have urban
springs that are good quality," and stressed his commitment.
In the past, Hays has stated that the springs have the ability to show improved
water quality within weeks to months due to the rapid transit of water within
The council took the matter under advisement for later discussion, with Hayes
promising a "good faith effort."