Curbing water quality control

In this July 2, 2012, file photo, people enjoy the cool waters after accessing the Lake of the Ozarks west of Camdenton.

In this July 2, 2012, file photo, people enjoy the cool waters after accessing the Lake of the Ozarks west of Camdenton. Photo by Samantha Edmondson.

A Lake of the Ozarks area woman recently told state Sen. Dan Brown that “she’s scared to death” Missouri and federal regulators will require tougher standards for getting permits to discharge sewage into the lake.

Brown, R-Rolla, told a Senate committee hearing this week the woman and three of her neighbors already “had spent between $150,000 and $200,000 doing their water treatment facility (and) their discharge is considered to be cleaner than rainwater.”

But regulations changes made by the state’s Clean Water Commission could change her permit status, the woman told Brown.

Another Lake area resident, Dennis Taylor, told the Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee this week that his homeowners’ association — “three homes, a very small, state-approved sewer system” — also are concerned about rising costs.

“In 2000, when we started paying for our sampling process, it was $120 a year,” Taylor testified. “Today it’s $800 a year just for samplings, because of the changes that have come down from the EPA.”

And, while he understands that Missouri’s Natural Resources department just is trying to do its job, Taylor said, “We had a state-approved system that, we thought, was good for 20 to 30 years, but we have had to have two changes since then, to upgrade our system” at a cost of $1,800 to add a chlorination system and then a cost of $4,250 to “de-chlorinate it.”

Brown wants lawmakers to require DNR and its Clean Water Commission to make an independent study of the environmental and economic needs for regulations changes before modifying the state’s water quality standards — then make those changes only when the modifications would be “greater than 25 percent.”

People at the Lake of the Ozarks are “very concerned about keeping the Lake very clean, but also, economically, trying balance that act of not putting too many constraints on the population and some of the changes that occur,” Brown told the committee, noting his bill also would apply near other waters used for recreation purposes.

“Our technological advances made — in being able to test for a particular item at an accurate level — is much greater than it was even five years ago,” he said.

But that improvement has federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency looking constantly to make testing more specific, and get cleaner water and sewage discharges into places like the Lake.

Taylor told the committee: “The EPA puts out information that’s appropriate for the whole United States,” and the state shouldn’t be imposing every EPA rule on small areas like the Lake.

John Madras, DNR’s Water Protection programs director, told the committee things may be a little more complicated.

“Sometimes EPA has the duty to set national criteria,” Madras explained, “and the way that those are adopted into state regulations is for somebody in the state — and in Missouri, it’s the Clean Water Commission — to go through and figure out how the federal criteria fits for the state of Missouri.”

While the commission uses an open hearings process to determine what rules, if any, should be adopted in the state, “All these standards that are adopted by the Clean Water Commission ultimately go to EPA for their approval, since we are actually implementing the federal Clean Water Act when the department and the commission take these actions,” Madras said.

The commission does determine whether a proposed national standard affects Missouri’s streams, lakes and aquatic life, he said.

Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Tuscumbia, has proposed a similar bill in the House.

Madras said DNR and the Clean Water Commission see the proposals as a possible “threat to our ability to carry out our responsibilities, that we have been delegated by the EPA,” but that the department and commission “appreciate the opportunity to have the discussion with the sponsors and make this work for the department.”

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