Anne McFarland, a senior research scientist, listens to a question during a Nolan Creek watershed meeting Wednesday at the Harker Heights Activities Center. The meeting provided education and outreach strategies regarding elevated bacteria levels in the creek.

Rachael Riley | Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS — With bacteria detected in portions of Nolan Creek, area residents and stakeholders want to see a plan of action to clean up the creek.

Representatives of the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research provided stakeholders information regarding studies of the creek and the future strategies to clean it Wednesday night at the Harker Heights Activity Center.

For the past three years, the institute has worked on a characterization plan and studied the creek as an Environmental Protection Agency and city of Killeen funded project, said Anne McFarland, a senior research scientist for the institute. Areas of the creek identified as impaired include South Nolan Creek, from Liberty Ditch in the Killeen area to the creek’s confluence of North Nolan Creek and the overall creek, and Little Nolan Creek.

Bacteria levels are above the state’s standards for “primary contact,” which would be recreational activities, with a risk of ingesting the water, McFarland said.

“So you have a high risk of ingesting that water, so you have a higher risk of potentially getting some type of gastrointestinal disorder,” she said.

Currently, the creek is rated for secondary contact recreational activities such as boating and fishing, where the head isn’t under water.

Potential sources of bacteria include “point sources,” from sanitary sewer overflows, or “non-point” sources from septic tanks, storm water and rainfall, pets, residential and industrial waste, or livestock and wildlife, McFarland said.

“And in this watershed, when we’re looking at bacteria contributions, it appears to be more of a non-point source problem than a point-source problem,” she said.

That is why the next step, after characterizing the creek and areas of bacteria, is to develop a watershed protection plan, McFarland said.

Development of the watershed protection plan would start in March this year and be funded for completion until November 2018.

During development of the plan, the goal is to continue educational outreaches with stakeholders and evaluate regional, agricultural and urban programs, said Leah Taylor, a public outreach coordinator with the study.

“A stakeholder is a landowner, citizen groups, local representatives, local government agencies, anybody that has a real investment and involvement,” Taylor said. “They are the key to the program’s success.”

Stakeholders from Killeen, Nolanville, Belton and Bell County were at Wednesday night’s meeting.

McFarland said the group would like to assemble committees to assist in the watershed protection plan, which would be approved by stakeholders, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and EPA.

A few residents’ suggestions for the plan Wednesday night included evaluation of moving ducks and no longer placing duck feeders along the creek near Belton and having a central website that monitors all sanitary sewer overflows.

“I want to see a reduction of (bacteria) numbers,” said Evelyn Herr, a Nolanville resident who lives near the creek.

Residents interested in the study and postings for future stakeholder meetings can go to http://www.killeentexas.gov/nolancreekwatershed.

Contact Rachael Riley at rriley@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7553

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