Inspectors investigate pipe dumping into Oklahoma River 

The anonymous tipster had interesting news for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry officials.

There was a tinhorn dumping who knows what into the Oklahoma River near the Oklahoma National Stockyards and surrounding industrial property. A tinhorn is another name for a steel culvert, or pipe.


"(Agriculture) inspectors went out there twice and couldn't find it," said Jack Carson, state agriculture department spokesman.

Finally, it was located in high overgrowth and trash near some industrial businesses.

The inspectors located the other end of the tinhorn starting at a stormwater grate in the nearby industrial park. Dye was placed in the grate to confirm they'd found the correct source of the liquid coming from the tinhorn. Because of its location, the matter has since moved from the purview of the agriculture department to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Oklahoma City.

State DEQ spokeswoman Skylar McElhaney said inspectors from her agency would be running a camera through the culvert "to try to tell what exactly ties into it."

"If there are industries that do not have stormwater permits, then we would work with them to go through the application process," she said.

But the tinhorn is another example of the complexity of monitoring stormwater runoff into the Oklahoma River, which has included waste from cattle manure, large rookeries of waterfowl near Lake Overholser in southwest Oklahoma City, deer, dog and cat excrement and septic tank overflow. The Oklahoma River is the renamed portion of the North Canadian River that runs through Oklahoma City.

Murphy Products, a company that manufactures compost from manure at land leased from the Oklahoma National Stockyards Co. near the river, received cease and desist orders in July from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state agriculture department.

Murphy, which was maintaining large piles of manure near the river, had never been issued a permit by the agriculture department. The company has since built a large berm around the piles and hired a consultant to help them design appropriate runoff solutions and aid them through the permitting process.

The company had until July 30 to submit their application to the agriculture department. Carson said the plan was turned in on time and has been reviewed by the department's engineers and some changes are being required.

He said they are working hard to get Murphy into compliance, and the company has been very cooperative.

"It's important them having a plan and getting it in order so they can resume operation," he said. "They have a business there, and the Oklahoma National Stockyards needs them to be in business to handle manure."

Agriculture inspectors are keeping a close watch on the area runoff.

"Every time it rains, we send someone out to check on it," Carson said.

The river's challenge as an impaired body has been known for some time, being monitored by the state DEQ at eight points along the North Canadian River and Crooked Oak, Crutcho, Mustang and Airport Heights creeks since 1998 as part of statewide water body monitoring for the federal Clean Water Act.

The river's condition came under increased scrutiny when it made the news after close to four dozen of 367 competitors in the Boathouse International Triathlon became ill after swimming a 1.5-kilometer portion of the contest in the Oklahoma River on May 16-17. A state health department investigation revealed the competitors showed several gastrointestinal agents, including norovirus "and a couple of different kinds of bacteria and parasites, all of which "¦ could be associated with exposure to water contaminated with human or animal waste."

Oklahoma health department officials said ingesting the water put the triathletes at risk.

A popular venue for rowing and kayaking nationally, the Oklahoma River contains a 2,000-meter race course and National High Performance Center. The U.S. Olympic Committee named the Oklahoma River as a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site.

That's all put more emphasis on improving the condition of the watershed and tributaries going into the river.

The waterway's health was the recent subject of a meeting convened with representatives of all the different agencies that deal with the river. The state health department epidemiologist led it, said Kristy Yager, City of Oklahoma City spokeswoman.

"Sometimes out of bad things comes good things," she said about the first meeting and other planned meetings.

Yager said the city, which monitors stormwater runoff throughout the city, welcomes the increased attention the issue is receiving.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is taking public comments from agencies, businesses and individuals concerned with the river for its annual Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, draft document describing changes needed to reduce the amount of disease-causing bacteria currently entering the watershed.

The in-depth report has been done annually since 1998 on all impaired water bodies in the state, said Skylar McElhaney, department spokeswoman.

The public notice and report may be accessed at the DEQ Web site. Copies are also available at the DEQ office, 707 N. Robinson.

Comments may be submitted in writing to: Karen Miles, Water Quality Division, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 1677, Oklahoma City, OK 73101.

Comments may also be made via e-mail at All comments must be received by Oct. 1.

There will also be a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at DEQ offices to discuss the TMDL report, consisting of a short presentation, an informal question-and-answer session and an opportunity for formal public comment on the record. It will be held in the multipurpose room on the first floor of DEQ, 707 N. Robinson.  "Carol Cole Frowe

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