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Contaminants investigation of Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 1994

Stormwater may be generally as polluted as it was in 1987. TriState has generally remained in compliance with their State wastewater discharge permit; however, mineralized nitrate appears to be leaching from their soils or from soils in the creek bed that were previously saturated with nitrogen components from their operations.

The optimum goal would be to encourage the TNRCC to adopt TKN standards for surface waters and consider treating CAFO waste through waste water treatment plants or constructed wetlands. Perhaps, the Service should work with TNRCC to set up a program to educate the CAFOs operators about the problem. Planting treatments have not drastically changed the concentration of inorganic contaminants in soils. For several elements, there may be an actual increase. At this time it is difficult to determine or explain the apparent increase. We have encountered problems in comparing our soil sample analyses with the data reported by Irwin and Dodson (1991). Soil samples from 1993 were collected along known transects at a 3-inch depth with a core-sampler. It is assumed that samples collected during 1986 were from a 6-inch depth. This assumption, however, is suspect, because no collection methodology was written and we are relying on the recollection of Jim Rogers, the technician who collected the samples. Jim Rogers, of the former Bureau of Reclamation office in Amarillo, Texas, was assigned the task of soil collection by Roy Irwin. In 1994, we collected soil samples at several depths to develop a regression equation and determine the likely concentrations at the 6 inch layer. In conclusion, the metal concentrations in soils from the dry lake bed at BLNWR are not at levels considered harmful to wildlife. Nitrogen levels in soils are elevated but do not appear to be causing nitrogen toxicosis to animals that eat plants grown on these soils (Dr. Michael Hickey, Texas Tech, personal communication). At Buffalo Lake NWR, nitrogen is mostly bound up in organic materials. There is no established level of concern for the protection of wildlife that ingests plants with elevated nitrogen.

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