Sierra Club questions Missouri's shorter polluted waterways list

Monday, October 16, 2006

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- An environmental group says a huge drop in the number of lakes, rivers and streams on a list of Missouri waterways that don't meet federal clean water standards is an indication the state isn't doing its job, not that fewer waterways are polluted.

The draft report from the Department of Natural Resources lists 82 Missouri rivers, lakes and streams as not meeting federal clean water standards, down from 207 bodies of water on the 2002 list.

The Sierra Club is wondering why so many waterways were dropped.

"I'd like to say we've seen that much progress," said Scott Dye, of Columbia, director of the national Sierra Club's Water Sentinel program. "But it's not about progress, it's about paperwork."

The department acknowledged in its report, released Wednesday, that only 30 waterways were recommended to be taken off the list because they met water quality standards. Of the other waterways, 47 were dropped because a plan has been developed to get them in compliance and 48 weren't listed because the state didn't have enough information to list them. Others were de-listed because of changes in water quality standards.

"It appears that the DNR is again blowing off their responsibility to protect Missouri waters," Dye said.

But the department said that's not true.

"If there is insufficient data, that doesn't mean that we're not worried about it," said Renee Bungart, a spokeswoman for the state agency. "If they go off this list, it's not that they're totally gone and forgotten."

And Earl Pabst, deputy director of the department's Division of Environmental Quality, said the state will still monitor pollution levels of waterways taken off the list.

Dye said he already is considering a lawsuit to get streams and lakes put back on the list.

The 2004/2006 list is only a proposal and must be submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for final approval. The department said it would hold five public meetings in October and November around the state to discuss the report and take comments on the proposed list.

The list, which is required by the EPA, helps direct resources for studying and removing water pollution.

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