Officials unsure when Black River will run clear again

Saturday, February 4, 2006

While water clarity in the Black River has improved following a breach at the Taum Sauk reservoir last year, officials Friday were uncertain how long until it would return to the crystal clarity it is known for.

AmerenUE has been working to improve the damage done to the river and surrounding area since a Dec. 14 breach at the Taum Sauk hydroelectric plant.

More than 1 billion gallons of water gushed down from a reservoir atop Proffit Mountain in Reynolds County, flooding nearby Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, dirtying up the Black River and injuring five people.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has been monitoring the river since a week after the breach, and in that time there has been a noticeable improvement in water clarity, said David Gullic, an environmental specialist for department.

Gullic said it's hard to tell how much improvement has been made as there was still color in the river, which is known for being crystal clear.

"The river is not back to the way it was," Gullic said, adding officials did not know how long it would take before the water completely clears up.

Also unknown is how helpful chemicals added to the Lower Taum Sauk Reservoir were in the cleaning of the Black River, which is fed by the lower reservoir.

For three days starting Jan. 25, AmerenUE dumped about 70,000 gallons of alum and 430,000 gallons of sodium aluminate into the lower reservoir.

The added chemicals help suspended particles to settle out of the water, improving the clarity.

Gullic said the chemicals did clean the reservoir and has since been sending clear water downstream, but how much an impact the chemicals have had on the river would not be determined for some time.

DNR was also looking into the potential impact to aquatic life from the breach. Gullic said he was not aware of any fish deaths from the flood, but the true effect on the population would take awhile to learn.

AmerenUE has taken responsibility for the breach, the cause of which has not yet been determined. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was investigating.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611 extension 127

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