David Casaletto has easily witnessed the impact of the recent heavy rains in the region. The president of the water quality advocacy group Ozarks Water Watch lives on the James River branch of Table Rock Lake.
“We seem to be getting more rain during an event, and then have dry periods, then a big event again,” Casaletto says. “That causes flooding and different types of things that we haven’t seen before.”
Casaletto continues that the amount of rain is similar this year, but it has come in larger spurts.
This past weekend’s rains, Casaletto says, caused much less sediment and debris to come through the river than when the north and westbound ramps of Highway 60 and 65 in Springfield were closed more than two weeks ago.
“When the rainfall is heavy like it has been, not only does the lake level rise pretty dramatically, quickly but the sediment that is washed into the lake turns the color a dark brown—almost a chocolate color,” Casaletto says. “As sediment, it will settle out fairly rapidly if the storm event is gone.”
Casaletto says most of the debris from this past weekend’s rains was wood, which impacted Table Rock Lake for a day or two so that boats had a more difficult time moving around certain areas of the lake. He adds there really isn’t long-term impact from debris.
In addition, Casaletto says flooding can increase bacteria levels in the lakes and rivers.
“E. coli is an indicator of bacteria in the water, and during a storm event, the first flush—that’s what I call it when the rain flushes everything the land into the waters—can be high in bacteria, and probably in that first flush you wouldn’t want to go swimming in the river or the lake,” Caseletto says. “But as it settles out and the sunlight kills the E. coli, over the next few days those levels go back down, and the lakes become safe.”
Sarah Davis, a storm water technician for the city of Springfield, says E. coli is also a more rural problem rather than an urban one.
“What you mostly see as sources of pollution to our surface water is from industrial sites, construction sites, things like heavy metals and sediment will be washed into the waterways during events like this,” Davis says.
Davis also says cites normal conditions for water quality in the city.
Casaletto says the city’s infrastructure could also prevent flash flooding or rapid water flow to the rivers. He suggests more options like permeable pavement that would allow the water to be absorbed and ‘kept on site,’ minimizing runoff.
“We take for granted…we have a lot of water. We have a good quantity of water, and we have beautiful waterways. We have to protect them.” Casaletto says.
The clearing of sediment and debris in some area waterways may not last long, however, as more flooding is possible throughout the Ozarks this week.