A report that says the Clean Water Act has failed to reduce pollution in the nation's rivers and streams is being questioned by some local residents who say water quality is much better than it was 20 to 40 years ago.
Tony Dutzik, Piper Crowell and John Rumpler are authors of the "Wasting Our Waterways" report. They say major changes are needed in the way the Environmental Protection Agency polices industrial operations and other sources of pollution.
"The nation needs to do more to reduce the threat posed by toxic chemicals to our environment and our health and to ensure that our waterways are fully protected," the authors said in their report summary.
Max Muller, program director at Environment Illinois, which helped sponsor the report, said all sources of pollution need to be addressed. Muller said the report is about industrial pollution, but he believes the nation needs to also address agricultural practices.
Drew DeRiemacker of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office in Quincy is concerned whenever he hears people blaming farmers for pollution.
"There's a lot of misconception that agriculture is a big contributor to pollution," DeRiemacker said. "We have made a lot of strides that are definitely cutting down on source point pollution."
For example, DeRiemacker says manure and other fertilizer is typically injected into the soil instead of spread on top. Many farmers also have switched to no-till production of soybeans, wheat and corn, rather than using moldboard plows to work the soil. DeRiemacker says erosion of soil and fertilizer is greatly reduced with less-intensive tillage.
He adds farmers are using grass waterways, terraces, buffer strips, riparian borders along streams and the restoration of some wetlands to prevent erosion or other runoff problems.
Curtis Creek, which winds through parts of east central and southern Quincy, including South Park, is listed in the statewide report as having a small, but noticeable amount of pollution. According to the U.S. EPA's Toxics Release Inventory, Curtis Creek had 15 TRI discharges. Cedar Creek, which winds through northern Quincy, is listed with 2.5 TRI discharges.
Mike Hines, who has been the Adams County Health Department's sanitarian since 1976, can only think of "once or twice" that he's been alerted to possible pollution in either of those creeks. One time, the fluorescent green dye that he found in the creek was there because a plumber was trying to find the source of a leak.
"I'm not really sure what parameters they're using" in the water pollution report, Hines says.
He says there will be some bacterial pollution in creeks from animal and human activities. Lawn fertilizers and lawn treatments will wash into waterways, but Hines does not hear of serious problems.
"I'm not hearing fish kill stories or getting reports of foul odors," Hines says.
Quincy draws its water from the Mississippi River and treats it with chemicals and filtering to produce drinkable water.
Pat Murry, operations manager at Quincy's water filtration plant, has seen water treatment standards made more stringent over the 23 years he has worked there. Murry believes the water that is drawn from the river is safe when it reaches Quincy customers.
"We used to have a requirement that the turbidity of (treated water) had to be below 1. Then they made it 0.5 and now it's 0.3," Murry says.