JEFFERSON CITY — Though it might take some scientific expertise to decipher, anyone with access to the Internet can now scan through about 2.6 million laboratory test results from Missouri's environmental regulatory agency.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources launched an online database Monday displaying test results from 2002 through this year from its air, water and solid waste management programs.
The agency was criticized last year for being slow to publicly release test results showing high levels of E. coli at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The new Internet site is not a response to last year's controversy, department spokesman Judd Slivka said.
"This is part of a broader effort for people to see into what it is we do," he said.
To get laboratory test results in the past, people could file a records request under Missouri's open-government law.
The Web site allows people to search for results based on the type of laboratory test, the substance being tested, the dates the tests occurred and the program for which they were conducted. But an understanding of government acronyms, statute numbers and environmental science is helpful.
The Web site, for example, allows people to search the results of all E. coli tests conducted at lakes and rivers with public beaches run by the Division of State Parks. The Web site displays the quantity of bacteria found by the lab test, but it doesn't provide any context of what quantity is considered acceptable under state and federal rules.
Slivka said that's because the Web site shows raw data from the lab, and it's up to other state offices or programs to determine what should be done as a result of the laboratory findings.
The department said its goal is to post laboratory test results on the Web site within two business days of the results being provided to the program that ordered the tests. But the department plans to move even more quickly this summer to release the results of water quality tests at public lakes and rivers, Slivka said.
A bill pending in a House committee would require the department to post water quality results from lakes and streams on its Web site within three days of when the samples are taken.
A separate Senate bill would transfer the Department of Natural Resources' laboratory testing duties to the Department of Health and Senior Services. Gov. Jay Nixon also has proposed to merge state laboratories to save the state money.
The transfer of the department's water-quality testing powers was recommended earlier this year by a Senate committee that investigated why the agency waited a month to report the result of a May 26 water sample showing high E. coli levels at the Lake of the Ozarks. Those tests were part of a multiyear environmental study of the lake.