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  • FOX 23 Tulsa KOKI

    FOX23 Investigates: Some Tulsans concerned about chemicals in Arkansas River

    2024-06-13

    TULSA, Okla. — Some Tulsans are raising concerns over the Arkansas River and questioning the quality of the water as the City plans to open Zink Lake and the new flume to the public on Labor Day.

    Tulsa firefighters did swift water training in the new flume in the Arkansas River on Thursday. The training prepares firefighters to be ready in case anyone needs to be rescued.

    However, some Tulsans question whether anyone should get in that water.

    FOX23 reported on Wednesday some people made their concerns known at a Tulsa City Council meeting.

    In a FOX23 Investigation, Tulsa’s Investigative Reporter Janna Clark is looking into one of their concerns: chemicals in the water.

    Right now, there is a sign that says you should not get in the Arkansas River. However, that will change on Labor Day when the City of Tulsa plans to invite people to come and enjoy Zink Lake and the flume.

    Three Tulsans want to warn city councilors about the water quality. Charles Pratt, Kelsey Royce and Anne Marie Beer are basing what they say on research they’ve done. They presented a power point presentation during Wednesday's meeting.

    One of their major concerns is chemicals in the water.

    “Don't let your kids get in the water anywhere in the flume, or in the lake,” Pratt said. “It's just too, too dangerous.”

    “You are going to come into contact with that water and it is unsafe,” Royce said.

    “Make smart decisions, don't go in the water,” Beer said.

    The department of environmental quality told FOX23 there is a huge plume of historical contamination under Sinclair Refinery which is on the west side of Zink Lake and right across from the flume.

    Royce said the refinery is seeping chemicals called hydrocarbons. She said these are chemicals she does not want her children coming into contact with.

    “There's historical data telling what's going what's going into the water, what's leaching into the water, and it is scary,” Beer said.

    Pratt said they are not testing for the hydrocarbons and pollutants in the water properly.

    Sinclair Refinery has spent millions working on the problem. The refinery put in containment caps to try to stop pollutants from getting into the river.

    In Wednesday’s meeting, Beer pointed out the chemicals already found in the river and showed them on the screen.

    “I’ve gone back as far as 2018, it's very time consuming to go through those reports,” she said. “Because if you don't understand something, you have to research it to find out the meaning and the value.”

    The City said it’s been testing for hydrocarbons since January. The results shown are favorable so far.

    However, Pratt said the testing that’s been done isn’t good enough.

    “That system is not sensitive enough to ensure safety because the sensitivity required is almost 1000 times greater than what that protocol is capable of,” he said.

    “That test, as I mentioned in my talk, is totally inadequate to test what needs to be tested for,” Pratt added.

    He also pointed out test results for the hydrocarbons aren’t on the main page of the City’s new dashboard. This dashboard shows daily water test results. While the main page shows bacteria results, it does not show hydrocarbons results. To find those results, you have to do some clicking to find it.

    FOX23 asked the City why the hydrocarbons results aren’t on the main screen of the dashboard.

    The City responded with the following in an email:

    “Hydrocarbon data and chemical (Cadmium) data are included in the testing and are located on the dashboard on the Resources tab on the main dashboard, with results so far in the green showing below detectable limits on all parameters tested. The reason it’s under the main resources tab, which is easily accessible through the top four tabs, is that these parameters are tested for monthly, while others that have the Green/Yellow/Red meters are tested for daily/weekly.”

    The chemical testing information on the dashboard also is not up-to-date. The latest results are two months old from April 2.

    Pratt said even if test results are posted, there’s no way most Tulsans can make sense of them. He said this is statistical data that most people can't understand.

    The City said the water testing is a work in progress and so is the dashboard. They said they’re making improvements to all of it by the time the flume opens on Labor Day. They also said that if the river water is ever dangerous, then there will be signs posted saying that.

    The City said they’ve been working to automate the process to update the hydrocarbon data on the dashboard. They said you should now be able to see those results.

    To view the dashboard, click here .

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