ADEQ Grant to Fund Pollution Cleanup on Oak Creek

Oct 22, 2014

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.

Red Rock Crossing, a popular swimming area on Oak Creek in west Sedona, last summer during monsoon season. Seasonal rains flush animal waste down Carrol Canyon Wash into Oak Creek frequently causing higher than acceptable levels of E. coli.
Credit Ryan Heinsius

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.