Restoring Nolan Creek to fishable, swimmable status is the goal of a new stakeholders group formed for the Nolan Creek Watershed, which met for the first time Wednesday in Killeen.
A study performed between 2003 and 2010 identified excessive amounts of E. coli — a bacteria commonly found in animal feces — in sections of north and south Nolan Creek through Killeen, Harker Heights and Nolanville.
In September, the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research began monitoring the pollution in the creek through a $450,000 program funded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the city of Killeen.
Through widespread testing and outreach programs, scientists and environmentalists hope to identify the causes of the pollution and establish best-management practices for all properties that feed into the Nolan Creek watershed.
“Hopefully, we will see some spikes in certain areas and see if there are any areas where we need to focus our monitoring,” said Anne McFarland, the environmental scientist in charge of the testing.
On Wednesday, TCEQ and TIAER scientists and organizers met with watershed stakeholders to identify additional avenues for mitigating the flow of pollutants into the creek.
“We can collect all this data, but if we don’t have a clear understanding of what is happening in the neighborhoods and communities along the creek, then all we are doing is providing numbers,” said Nikki Jackson, TIAER project director.
In Killeen alone, more than 1,400 homes back up to Nolan Creek.
“One of the problems we have is four-wheelers tearing up the creek near our house,” said David Doell, who lives along South Nolan Creek in Killeen. “It might be against the law, but nobody will enforce it.”
When a vehicle drives through a stream, automotive fluids leak into the water and the vehicle’s tires tear up vegetation that could play a role in cleaning the water, said Kristina Ramirez, Killeen’s director of environmental services.
In 2004, TCEQ established a similar program that successfully cleaned a separate section of south Nolan Creek, west of the currently impaired waterways.
The project brought the creek back into compliance with the state’s fishable, swimmable standards.
Ramirez said the 2004 project was successful through programs such as septic tank elimination, education outreach and the installation of pet waste stations.
“What we want to do is have a message with one set of goals for our watershed,” Ramirez said.