St. Louis Public Radio News
6:22 pm
Wed October 14, 2009

Lager suspects "organized cover up" in E. coli report delay

Jefferson City, Mo. – The Missouri State Senator leading an inquiry into the delayed release of the Lake of the Ozarks E. coli report says there appears to be an "organized cover up" in progress.

Brad Lager (R, Savannah) chairs the Senate committee that oversees environmental issues. He says there's been a clear effort by Department of Natural Resources staff to mislead Senate investigators.

"We have been given 500,000 emails that were not in a searchable format...when we asked why they were not put in a searchable format, the vendor tells us DNR specifically told them not to," Lager said.

Lager also cites the DNR's refusal to release 6,000 additional emails. He says an outside investigation may be necessary.

"This type of behavior anywhere in government is wrong, but especially from a department director, and especially when you're putting the public health and safety at risk," Lager said.

Governor Jay Nixon says the DNR is cooperating.

"The sooner we get to what's the legislative solution here, if they've got some sort of legislative solution, the better off we all are...I look forward to working with the Senate and the House, if they have solid ideas that can help us move public policy forward in this area," Nixon said today during a visit to the University of Missouri - St. Louis campus.

Nixon also said he hopes Lager's committee uses the same level of energy to talk about improving water quality in Missouri as it's used in its inquiry.

DNR Director Mark Templeton recently told Senate investigators that delaying the release of the E. coli report for a month did not pose a public health risk because bacteria die in lake water after about four days.