Scientists Testing Bernard Bayou Waters

Bernard Bayou is included on the State of Mississippi's list of impaired water bodies.

That's because the bayou violates the state's water quality standards. And that's why state scientists are now taking a close up look at Bernard Bayou and the adjoining industrial seaway.

DEQ scientists know there are pollution problems, but they don't know to what extent. An extensive study in the mid 1980's found serious concerns with high levels of various pollutants. This follow up study will determine if the problem's getting worse.

Ken Daniels often enjoys a boat's eye view of Bernard Bayou. The Gulfport man sells boats for a living. Away from work, he often fishes these same waters.

"We like to ski and tube and things like that here too. My kids get in this water, so we want to know it's in good shape, sure," said Daniels, after taking a quick boat trip across Gulfport Lake.

The last time it was tested the water in Bernard Bayou wasn't in such good shape. DEQ scientists look for toxicity levels, various chemicals and pollutants that can choke the life out of a healthy waterway.

Barry Royals is the head of the surface water division for the Department of Environmental Quality.

"This is an area that is heavily industrialized. You've got a lot of industry there. It's a water body that doesn't flow very fast, so pollutants they get in that water body and tend to accumulate and stay there," he explained.

Georgia Murphy often brings her children and grandchildren to the bayou. The youngsters know the importance of keeping the waters clean.

"Like if your kids can go swimming. And it's just nice to have clean water," said Jaquela Murphy.

Jamee Pickens echoed her concerns about keeping water clean.

"Well, if you have clean water, then you'll be able to swim in it, drink it and go fishing," she said.

Ken Daniels looks forward to future boat trips on the bayou. He's also interested in what the scientists might find.

"And I like to know that we actually have people that are looking after that. It's very important," said Daniels.

The DEQ study of Bernard Bayou includes more than just toxicity levels. Scientists are also looking at things like dissolved oxygen levels, nutrients and bacteria counts.

The water quality report card should be finished later this year.