Area restaurant not complying with routine water testing

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Thirty-seven public drinking water systems in the state, including one in Cape Girardeau County, have failed to comply with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources testing requirements.

The Corner Store and Cafe on Highway 34 in Burfordville failed to report water samples to DNR during March, April and last September. The department requires any public water system that serves 25 people or more per day and is open for more than 60 days out of the year to complete bacteriological testing at least once a month.

DNR public notice coordinator Patty Ritchie said failing to monitor does not necessarily mean the water is unsafe, but routine testing is a crucial part of maintaining a safe water supply.

"We got good samples from them in July. They're not that bad compared with some of the other ones on the list," Ritchie said of the Corner Store and Cafe.

Several of the violators -- which include restaurants, campgrounds and mobile home parks -- on DNR's list have water that tested positive for coliform bacteria. The Bird's Nest Lodge near Steelville, had a history of bacteria problems, Ritchie said. "They had some problems with their well but their July sample tested negative."

The Bird's Nest Lodge also failed to report water samples with DNR six months out of the testing year. When a public water system has both a record of failing to monitor and a history of exceeding contaminant levels, this may raise concern about the unknown quality of the drinking water, Ritchie said.

The owners of the 37 systems that failed to monitor water samples were sent multiple violation notices and certified letters informing them that chronic noncompliance is unacceptable. DNR representatives routinely make on-site inspections in an attempt to make owners comply with regulations.

If the owner continues to fail to comply with Missouri's drinking water law, DNR can file a case in civil court through the attorney general's office. "Certified letters will typically catch their eye and the owners eventually comply," Ritchie said.

There are about 2,700 public drinking water systems in Missouri.

Ritchie isn't sure why public water systems fail to comply with DNR's requirements but said state health labs will facilitate the water sample tests. "At most of these places, like the Corner Store and Cafe, the water is probably safe to drink," she said.

Cindy Robbins, owner of the Corner Store and Cafe, has not returned telephone calls.

No public water systems in Bollinger, Perry or Scott counties were on DNR's list of systems that failed to comply.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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