Settlement means cleaner water
By Ted Heisel
Missouri Coalition for the Environment
Many newspapers reported Wednesday on a settlement the Coalition recently entered into with the U.S. EPA regarding Missouri's failure to properly implement the Clean Water Act.
The lawsuit concerned a broad range of deficiencies in the state's existing water quality regulations, and the settlement will result in a major overhaul of those rules by April of 2006.
Below is a summary of the standards that will be required to be updated as a result of the settlement.
Key Lawsuit Documents
Currently, more than 90 percent of the state's surface waters are not required to be clean enough for people to swim in. As a practical matter, this means that sewage treatment plants do not have to disinfect their effluent before it is released into these streams. T
he settlement will require that the Missouri DNR put in place rules to protect all lakes and streams for human recreational use. This brings us closer to meeting the "fishable and swimmable" goal of the Clean Water Act.
* For the small percentage of streams that do currently have pathogen limits (i.e. are protected for swimming), the state standard uses an incorrect method of measuring the presence of pathogens. The settlement will require that the state use the correct method.
* Existing state standards designed to provide protections to "Outstanding National Resource Waters," which include the Current, Jacks Fork and Eleven Point Rivers, contain loopholes allowing for discharges from mines and sewage treatment plants. The settlement requires that these loopholes be closed.
* The Clean Water Act requires that states apply an "anti-degradation" policy to ensure that waters that are cleaner than applicable standards remain so. Missouri has never applied this standard, and lacks any procedures to ensure that it is applied. The settlement requires that Missouri adopt implementation procedures for anti-degradation.
* The existing state standard for dissolved oxygen contains a loophole that allows for pollution levels that would be harmful to fish and other aquatic life. The settlement requires that this loophole be closed.
* Existing state standards for how much cadmium, copper, lead and zinc pollution can be released into streams and lakes are not protective of fish and other aquatic life. These standards will have to be adjusted to assure that they protect aquatic life.
* Existing state standards for allowable levels of six pollutants in fish tissues are not adequately protective of human health. Those pollutants are trihalomethanes, 4-4'-DDT, 4-4'-DDE, 4-4'-DDD, bis chloromethyl ether, and pentachlorobenzene. The settlement will require that these standards be adjusted to ensure the protection of human health.
* Existing state standards for drinking water supplies specify an incorrect procedure for measuring the concentration of heavy metals in those waters. The settlement will require that a new standard be adopted to specify the correct procedure.
* Existing state standards for drinking water supplies have limits for nine chemicals that are not protective of human health. Those nine chemicals are 2,3,7,8-TCDD dioxin; 1,2-dichloropropane; trihalomethanes; 4,4'-DDT; 4,4'-DDE; 4,4'-DDD; bis chloromethyl ether; pentachlorobenzene; and 1,2,4,5-tetrachlorobenzene. The settlement will require that these standards be adjusted to be protective of human health.
* In earlier revisions of the state standards, DNR had removed protections for certain "cold-water sport fisheries." The streams for which protections were reduced include the North Fork White River, South Indian Creek, Spring Creek, Turnback Creek, Indian Creek and Bull Shoals Lake. The settlement will require that these protections be restored or that DNR provide a scientifically justifiable reason for why they should not be.
* In addition to the reductions in protections noted in the item above, in earlier revisions DNR also weakened protections for 21 lakes and 6 streams around the state. The settlement will require that these protections be restored or that DNR provide a scientifically justifiable reason for why they should not be.
* Existing state standards allow for so-called "mixing zones" on very small streams where pollution could exceed otherwise applicable limits, even though these streams have very little assimilative capacity. The settlement will require the elimination of these mixing zones.
* Existing state standards contain a huge loophole from application of pathogen limits, which would apply any time it rains.
The settlement requires that this loophole be closed.
Have a Happy New Year!