New monitoring, outside review mark Big Creek 4th Quarter report

Nov. 1, 2014
Contact Information:

Mary Hightower, Division of Agriculture Communications
501-671-2126 / mhightower@uaex.edu

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Fast Facts:
• Big Creek 4Q report details new and continuous monitoring
• Includes memo on expert panel recommendations
• Is available online at http://arkansasagnews.uark.edu/QuarterlyReportJuly-Sept2014.pdf

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture team researching water quality near a Newton County hog farm installed new monitoring equipment near manure holding ponds and had its work reviewed by an outside team of experts, according to its fourth quarterly report.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past few months. There’s been a great deal of scientific data collected by the team in the last year,” said Andrew Sharpley, professor and leader of the Big Creek Research and Extension Team. “The intensity of the study and that large body of data as a whole will further the scientific understanding of nutrient flows in these watersheds, as well as determine any impact that might occur.”

The 47-page report includes:

• Partnerships among researchers with colleagues at federal and state agencies to extend the scope of soil and water quality monitoring. These include scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey.
• A wide-ranging review of the program by an external panel of experts, which included an on-site analysis of the terrain, hog farm and monitoring equipment. The text of their six-page analysis is included in the report, along with the team’s response.
• A new system to monitor potential leakage of the farm’s manure holding ponds was installed downslope from the ponds. The researchers said they chose the trench method over a network of shallow sampling wells due to the greater probability of the trench being able to intercept any seepage.
• A new team member was added, Ed Gbur, professor-agricultural statistics, for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “He will be looking at and evaluating any statistical trends that emerge from the data,” Sharpley said.

The team conducts weekly tests above and below the hog farm and is performing continuous flow and storm sampling both upstream and downstream, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey. The downstream site is providing real time, online stream discharge, nitrate concentration, water temperature and rainfall data. (See Big Creek entries at: http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/ar/nwis/current/?type=quality)

Other data being shared with the public are the nearly 300 water samples collected for phosphorus, nitrogen, sediment, and bacterial analysis during the first year of monitoring. All of the analyses comply with standard Environmental Protection Agency methods.

“All this data has been freely and openly shared to any interested party or individual,” Sharpley said. “And last month, we sponsored a Big Creek Summit where we shared all our science with others working in the watershed that included retired UA professor Van Brahana, UA Geosciences professor Victor Roland of the geological survey and Faron Usrey with the National Park Service.”

Since the project began late last year, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has responded to the 17 Freedom of Information requests filed by the public since September 2013.

The Big Creek Research and Extension Team, comprised of faculty and staff from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, is conducting the research using funds from the governor’s office. The funding was approved by a legislative subcommittee last September. Site work on the study began last October.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.