Quick 5: Ed Brocksmith

Ed Brocksmith

1. You’re one of the movers and shakers when it comes to protecting the Illinois River. Explain why STIR was founded.

Save the Illinois River was founded by Tahlequah citizens in 1984 in response to an EPA permit allowing Fayetteville, Arkansas, to discharge treated sewage into a tributary of the Illinois River, becoming a new pollution source for the designated Oklahoma Scenic River.

2. What are some of STIR's major accomplishments?

Major accomplishments include joining the state of Oklahoma in 1986 in a U.S. District Court lawsuit (Arkansas v. Oklahoma) to block a sewage discharge permit for Fayetteville. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, basically, that the Clean Water Act requires upstream states to meet the water quality standards of downstream states. However, the court allowed the EPA to issue the sewage discharge permit.

3. How have the courts reacted in the battle against Arkansas for water quality?

In addition to the Supreme Court decision in the Fayetteville case, a Tulsa U.S. District Court judge has yet to rule on Oklahoma v. Tyson Foods Inc. In 2009, Oklahoma sued Tyson and other Arkansas poultry companies for pollution of the Illinois River watershed and Lake Tenkiller. STIR gave active public support for the Oklahoma’s lawsuit against Tyson Foods.

4. Some folks are concerned many achievements may be reversed, in light of today’s political climate. Is that a realistic fear?

The political climate in our nation is a concern for those who wish to protect clean water and clean air. The U.S. EPA has weakened the federal Clean Water Act in many instances, including redefining what is called Waters of the United States (WOTUS). EPA has failed to force Arkansas and Oklahoma to fully protect the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller by requiring a scientific pollution study called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study of pollutants.

5. What are some other environmental issues in which you’re involved?

STIR is very concerned about the implementation of the phosphorus limit for Oklahoma Scenic Rivers. Phosphorus is a nutrient that causes water quality degradation in the Illinois River watershed. A limit on phosphorus was adopted by Oklahoma in 2002 but has never been enforced against Arkansas. Phosphorus levels at our border with Arkansas exceed our phosphorus limit by more than 90 percent. (See STIR Articles and Resources at www.illinoisriver.org.)

– Kim Poindexter

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