Water Quality | St. Louis Public Radio

Water Quality

An active coal ash pond at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County in February 2018.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Environmentalists plan to raise concerns at a public hearing tonight about water-quality issues caused by Ameren Missouri's Rush Island Energy Center in Festus. 

A view of Lake Taneycomo in February 2018.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

On a bright, brisk winter day in Branson, Mo., several dedicated fishermen tried to catch trout in Lake Taneycomo, a fast-moving, ribbon-shaped lake that snakes around the city.

The water appeared clear, but the lake has some ongoing issues, said David Casaletto, executive director of Ozarks Water Watch, a water quality group. For example, heavy rains in the summer have caused low levels of dissolved oxygen, which has hurt the trout population.

Under a recently proposed water quality rule from the Environmental Protection Agency, Lake Taneycomo, Mark Twain Lake and Lake of the Ozarks are among 113 lakes and reservoirs in Missouri that would be defined as “impaired” or too polluted for human use.

An aerial view of Lake of the Ozarks.
Courtesy Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau

The Environmental Protection Agency has released its proposal for tackling polluted runoff in Missouri's largest lakes.

But environmentalists say the EPA's plan, like the state's plan that was released in October, is not strong enough to address pollution. 

Missouri does not set limits for nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients that can cause fish kills and create dead zones in excessive quantities. A Clean Water Act settlement last year with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment required the EPA to devise a rule to regulate nutrient pollution in Missouri's lakes by Dec. 15, unless the Missouri Department of Natural Resources filed its own proposal by that date. The state failed to submit a plan by the deadline. 

An aerial view of Lake of the Ozarks.
Courtesy Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau

Missouri will soon adopt new regulations to clean up the state’s 150 large lakes and reservoirs.

But environmentalists contend the state’s plan won’t be strong enough to address pollution caused by harmful nutrients.

Missouri currently does not set limits on nitrogen and phosphorus. A combination of agricultural runoff, stormwater runoff, sewage treatment plant discharges and other sources can cause an excessive amount of the nutrients to enter lakes, rivers and streams. Nutrient pollution can render bodies of water unsuitable for drinking and recreation, cause fish kills, and drag down oxygen levels to create “dead zones,” similar to the one that exists in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Provided by the Metropolitan Sewer District of St. Louis

The first thing to notice about Clarice Hutchens’ front yard is that it isn’t a nicely manicured green lawn. Her house sits atop a steep hill and as you come up her driveway, you see piles of rocks, shrubs and trees that blend in well with the woods that surround her property.

Hutchens planted this rain garden, a garden built to absorb rainwater, shortly after she and her husband moved into their Ballwin home in 2004.

Provided by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Engineering researchers at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville are helping the Illinois Department of Transportation develop strategies for managing stormwater runoff on highways.

Highways and roads interrupt the natural flow of water during rains and especially heavy precipitation could cause much of the runoff to overload sewers. Runoff also can taint the water quality of the rivers and streams that it enters.

Mississippi River, dredging, Eads
Rachel Heidenry | 2008 file photo

A $9 billion bill in Congress that could improve waterway navigation and water systems in Missouri is a step closer to being signed into law.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 399-25 to approve the Water Resources Development Act — in a rare show of bipartisan support. The Senate passed its version of the bill earlier last month. 

The Water Resources Development Act, authorized every two years, gives the green light to the Army Corps of Engineers to improve navigation, water quality and work on other water projects.

St. Louis residents, activists and city officials gathered on Sept. 8, 2016, at the Gateway Arch riverfront to express opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Eli Chen

A federal judge on Friday denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. But the U.S. Departments of Justice, the Army and the Interior temporarily halted construction of the project.

 

The Army will not authorize pipeline construction on Corps of Engineers land bordering or under Lake Oahe in South Dakota until it can determine if it needs to reconsider past decisions. The three departments also asked the pipeline company to stop construction on other lands.

 

Meanwhile, some St. Louis officials and activists are banding together to show solidarity with the tribe.

 

The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline is set to be built on a 1,172 mile diagonal from the Bakken/Three Forks formations in North Dakota down to Patoka, Ill., about 75 miles east ofSt. Louis. The pipeline would cross under the Missouri River in two locations. That has people in St. Louis concerned about local water quality.

The Fenton Water Treatment Plant was knocked offline due to historic flooding.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Warnings to avoid contact with flood water. An executive order temporarily waiving Missouri Department of Natural Resources regulations. Periodic updates on the millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing into the Meramec River due to shuttered wastewater treatment plants.

St. Louis Public Radio referenced these announcements as they happened in the course of reporting on the human and economic toll wrought by the record-high waters. But what impact, if any, do those warnings and waivers have on the environment?

Current and Jacks Fork rivers
National Parks Service

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signed off on a major overhaul of Missouri's water quality standards.

The state approved the new regulations in November 2013 but needed federal approval to start enforcing them.

Political Battle Over Ozark National Park Heats Up

Feb 12, 2014
National Park Service

(Updated at 3:39 p.m., February 20)

Missouri senators passed a resolution to block the federal government's proposed changes in tourist restrictions at the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The resolution passed on a 23-8 vote on Thursday and now heads to the House.

Draft Management Plan Released For Ozark National Park

Jan 22, 2014
via National Park Service

 Updated 2:40 p.m. Jan. 22:

The National Park Service is holding the last public meeting on its proposed management plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways tonight in Kirkwood. See below for more details.

Updated 3:10 p.m. and 4:40 p.m. Jan. 7:

Missouri Approves Sweeping Revisions Of Clean Water Standards

Nov 6, 2013
Kelsey Proud, St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:50 p.m. with quote by Sara Parker Pauley; updated at 3:41 p.m. with quote by Lorin Crandall.

The Missouri Clean Water Commission has approved a sweeping regulatory overhaul of the state's water quality standards.

Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio

Opponents of a contract that asks Veolia North America to look for efficiencies in the St. Louis city water department could get a public hearing. 

Board of Aldermen president Lewis Reed announced today that he’ll ask an aldermanic committee to look into allegations of corporate misbehavior at the company, which is headquartered in France. His request would have to be approved by the entire board.

The move for public debate heartened Kathleen Logan Smith, the executive director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. 

(via Flickr/Matthew Black)

The city's top elected officials will wait to sign a contract that could help St. Louis save some money in its water division.

(PRNewsFoto/Anheuser-Busch)

Anheuser-Busch is in the process of packaging over one million cans of drinking water for victims of Hurricane Sandy that hit the northeast early this week.

The St. Louis-based company has the ability to easily convert one or more of its beer-production lines to produce drinking water, which is something it has done in the wake of natural disasters since the late 1980s.

(via flickr/benclark)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a new tool that allows the public to access information about pollutants that are released into local waterways.

The Discharge Monitoring Report Pollutant Loading Tool brings together millions of records and lets users search for and map water pollution.

EPA issues decision on Mo. water quality standards

Aug 17, 2011
(via Flickr/pasa47)

The EPA today issued its decision on Missouri's water quality standards, approving how the state categorized 244 streams, rivers and lakes.

That decision means water bodies newly designated for high contact uses like swimming will need more protection.

Some sewage treatment plants, municipalities and others will need to start treating their wastewater discharges.

EPA looks for water contamination near Birds Point levee

May 24, 2011
(via Birds Point New Madrid Floodway Joint Information Center facebook page/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The Environmental Protection Agency is looking for possible water contamination in Southeastern Missouri, in the area affected by the Birds Point levee breach.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew up a Mississippi River levee at Birds Point on May 2 to protect upstream communities like Cairo, Ill.

The levee breach flooded 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland, including a confined animal feeding operation.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is taking steps he hopes will improve water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks, one of Missouri’s most popular tourist destinations.