Missouri wastewater treatment plants under scrutiny

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | 6:30 p.m. CDT; updated 9:16 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

COLUMBIA — Several Missouri wastewater treatment plants may be in violation of state and federal clean water laws.

The Sierra Club issued a news release today on the state of various Missouri wastewater treatment plants, including those in Eminence, Rolla, Little Blue Valley, Cameron, Lebanon, Perryville, Kirksville, Salem, Ava and West Plains.

According to the release, these treatment plants aren’t being properly monitored by the Department of Natural Resources, due to their lack of personnel.

“As a result of looking into these reports, I have more questions than answers,” said Ken Midkiff, chair of the Missouri Clean Water Campaign of the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels. “This is due to the gradual decrease in funding from legislation that has been occurring since the early ‘90s.”

The specific plants mentioned in the analysis by the campaign were among those that have had problems in the past or that discharge into streams on the list of impaired water bodies or to “losing” streams. Losing streams means 30 percent of the stream’s flow goes into the water table.

“I would say the worst problems result from the treatment plant in Lebanon,” Midkiff said.

In 2009, 1.5 million gallons of raw sewage overflowed from this plant, according to the campaign's analysis. The plant discharges into Dry Auglaize Creek, a losing stream. According to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey, the losing portion of this stream emerges at Ha Ha Tonka Springs, a cove at the Lake of the Ozarks.

“These problems are not new,” said Judd Slivka, spokesman for the department. “This has been going on for years, and we feel like we do have the people to go forward with our mission, which is to protect citizens and the environment.”

According to Midkiff, very little has been done by the department to bring these wastewater violators up to code. “They simply don’t have enough people or money to do so,” Midkiff said.

Slivka said, “It’s a matter of a lot of people doing a lot of work, and we continue to work with the General Assembly.”

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