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Former DNR official says public not threatened

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Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio
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Lake of the Ozarks.

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – The former state Department of Natural Resources official who took the blame for delaying the release last year of E. coli test results from the Lake of the Ozarks defended his actions today before a Missouri Senate committee.

Joe Benbeutel, a long-time aid to Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, lost his appointment to be an administrative law judge over his one-month delaying of the report showing E. coli levels from late May exceeded federal guidelines.

But he told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment that the public was never in any danger.

"These bugs die very very quickly...to suggest that there was high E. coli results, that even a week later that those numbers accurately reflect the condition of the water in the Lake of the Ozarks, is simply facetious," Benbeutel said.

Benbeutel also said that he wanted to develop an improvement plan before releasing the results.

State Senator Brad Lager (R, Savannah), who chairs the committee, disagrees with Benbeutel's statement that the public was not in any danger.

"The Department of Natural Resources withheld important information about incredibly high levels of E. coli in the Lake, and in doing so, they still put the public health and safety at risk, and they violated the trust of the citizens and the visitors of this state," Lager said.

Lager also accuses DNR officials of not cooperating with his committee's inquiry into the delayed release of the E-coli test results.

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