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ADEQ Grant to Fund Pollution Cleanup on Oak Creek

Ryan Heinsius

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has awarded a grant to clean up a polluted section of Oak Creek in Sedona. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, storm runoff from private property and recreation areas triggered high levels of E. coli in the area.

The primary source of the pollution is the Settlers Rest neighborhood located at the top of Carrol Canyon in west Sedona. It’s frequented by hikers, dog owners and horseback riders. During monsoon rains, runoff containing animal waste is flushed into a popular section of Oak Creek. As a result, levels of E. coli higher than what the federal Clean Water Act allows are often recorded after rainstorms.

Ryan Matson is a manager with the Oak Creek Watershed Council.

“The creek has a higher standard than most of the other waterways in Arizona. We really strive to make sure it’s safe for swimming and for full-body contact,” Matson says.

The $120,000 award is part of the state’s Water Quality Improvement Grant Program. The funds will be used to build retention basins and spillways to help control runoff. In addition, the program will pay for the planting of native vegetation that will absorb pollutants and prevent erosion. Matson also says the program will directly involve area residents in reducing pollution sources on their property.

“The point of the grant is to engage private citizens on a mass level in the Sedona area,” Matson says.

Work on the project is slated to begin in the spring and wrap up before the beginning of next year’s monsoon season.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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