Sewer permits water testing bill heads to House

Missouri state senators approved a bill Thursday that would require water testing before the Clean Water Commission could impose tougher sewer permit requirements.

Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, proposed the bill after hearing concerns from Lake of the Ozarks area residents.

Several of those residents testified at the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee’s Feb. 4 hearing, concerned that sewer permits would get tougher and more expensive without a good reason.

“In 2000, when we started paying for our sampling process, it was $120 a year,” Dennis Taylor, representing a three-home homeowners’ association, told the committee. “Today it’s $800 a year just for samplings, because of the changes that have come down from the EPA.”

The bill requires the Natural Resources department’s Clean Water Commission to revise water quality standards only after testing is completed that shows an environmental need for the change.

On Thursday, senators passed the bill on a 26-6 vote, after changing just one word from the version the committee passed two weeks ago.

“What went through the committee was language brought to me by the Department of Natural Resources,” Brown said. “This bill is very important (not only) to the Lake of the Ozarks area, but to every small town in Missouri because, as populations are declining and they’re changing these permit levels without any environmental support, it gets to be a problem.”

Acknowledging that DNR’s staff isn’t overjoyed with the proposal, Brown said “it’s probably something we can live with — and the folks I represent feel there’s someone between them and EPA — that DNR, by doing an environmental impact study, it gives them some relief and we’re doing some good.”

John Madras, DNR’s Water Protection programs director, testified earlier this month that standards adopted by the Clean Water Commission ultimately go to EPA for their approval.

Six Democrats voted against Brown’s bill Thursday, including Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton.

“I want to make sure that the Department of Natural Resources has the latitude it needs to do the testing and make the recommendations that it believes it needs to make,” he said after Thursday’s vote. “I appreciate the spirit of what Sen. Brown is trying to accomplish here.

“I just want to have the Department of Natural Resources have appropriate discretion in trying to protect the environment.”

State Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, also voted no, “because in committee, the DNR and some of the environmental groups were in opposition to it.

“I understand that some of their concerns may have been addressed through the (bill-writing) process,” she said. “But I was not confident that it was where I wanted to be — and I wanted more information before I gave it my stamp of approval.”

The measure was sent to the House, which also has its own version waiting on the debate calendar.

Unless the House accepts the bill as it currently is written, and makes no changes to it, senators will have another chance to vote on the measure before the General Assembly session ends May 16.

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