EPA cites rivers and lakes as 'impaired'

Friday, May 2, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Almost all of Missouri's major rivers and lakes are labeled "impaired" by pollutants on a list released Thursday by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The pollutants run the gamut -- from insecticides in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to low water-oxygen levels in the Lake of the Ozarks, fecal contamination in the Jack's Fork River and high mercury levels in other lakes and rivers.

The EPA's impaired waters list is subject to a 60-day public comment period, which could result in changes before a final list is released.

For all waters included on the final list, the state Department of Natural Resources must develop a plan to reduce pollution.

But those plans often take a while. For example, the state has completed plans for just 28 of the 174 waters listed as impaired in 1998, said Becky Shannon, the acting planning chief in DNR's water pollution control program.

Last August, the state had proposed to place 150 water bodies on the list. The EPA added 63 water bodies on its version released Thursday.

Among those added are the Lake of the Ozarks and the Mississippi and Missouri rivers -- all of which were on the 1998 list but had been proposed to be dropped by the Missouri Clean Water Commission and Department of Natural Resources.

In 1998, the state's portions of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers were on the list because of habitat loss.

The EPA put them on the latest list because of contamination by chlordane, a now-banned insecticide used against termites, and by PCB, a chemical compound formerly used to insulate electrical equipment.

Both contaminants linger for years and can build up in fish. They were included on the EPA's list primarily because the state Department of Health and Senior Services cited them in an advisory against eating sturgeon from the two rivers, said Pat Costello, a water quality standards coordinator for the EPA's regional office in Kansas City, Kan.

The health department advisory is based on fish samples taken "quite a few years ago," said Gale Carlson, chief of the department's assessment unit for environmental public health.

"It could well be that the fish are clean, but they haven't given us data on that yet," he said.

Costello said the EPA placed the Lake of the Ozarks on the list because the state hadn't provided sufficient data to justify why it should have been removed since 1998.

The Lake of the Ozarks is listed not only for low levels of dissolved oxygen, but also for a saturation of gases caused by a dam and for fish trauma.

Last spring, more than 43,000 fish -- including about 4,300 specially stocked paddlefish -- were killed at Bagnell Dam on the lake when heavy rains forced the release of large amounts of water to keep the lake from flooding.

Costello said the EPA developed its impaired waters list after "a pretty thorough review of the information."

Shannon described the EPA's additions to the list as "pretty substantial" and said the state DNR was reviewing the reasons for the changes.

The state chapter of the Sierra Club, which had recommended some of the additions, praised the EPA's expanded list.

"It appears the EPA has based their findings on science, rather than the Clean Water Commission's politics," said Ken Midkiff, director of the Sierra Club's Clean Water Campaign.

Other major water bodies on the EPA list include Clearwater Lake, Eleven Point River, Gasconade River, Truman Lake, Lake Taneycomo, Long Branch Lake, Longview Lake, Mark Twain Lake, Meramec River, Osage River, Smithville Lake and Table Rock Lake.

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On the Net:

EPA Regional Office: http://www.epa.gov/region07

Natural Resources Department: http://www.dnr.mo.gov

Health Department: http://www.dhss.state.mo.us

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