Council votes to oppose EPA plan for Hinkson Creek

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 | 9:50 a.m. CST; updated 7:03 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 4, 2011

This story has been changed to correct Ken Midkiff's position on attorney David Shorr's representation of the city in its dispute with the EPA over Hinkson Creek.

COLUMBIA — EPA recommendations calling for significant reductions in storm-water runoff to control pollution in Hinkson Creek were rejected on a 5-2 vote by the Columbia City Council after a 2 1/2–hour public hearing Monday night.

The resolution opposing the EPA plan appeared on the council agenda after criticism from First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz and from Ken Midiff, chairman of the Osage Chapter of the Sierra Club. Both have asserted that Mayor Bob McDavid and city staff took an official stance on the issue without adequate input or involvement from the council.

They also criticized the city’s arrangement with David Shorr, a Columbia attorney who has represented the Central Missouri Development Council and is a former director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Sturtz said the council should have been told that Shorr was representing the city; Midkiff said he has seen no evidence that Shorr actually is operating with any sort of contract.

At the beginning of the hearing, Columbia Public Works Director John Glascock gave a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation outlining city efforts that he argues have contributed to the health of the stream over the years. He displayed aerial images of Hinkson Creek outlining the impaired areas — locations of the watershed that the Department of Natural Resources has identified as contributing to pollution in the creek — and listed a timeline of events that led to the city’s position.

Glascock said that the city, Boone County and MU are committed to reducing pollution in Hinkson Creek but previous studies of water quality in the stream are flawed.

Since 1998, Hinkson Creek has been listed on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ list of impaired streams. After several attempts by that department to develop a plan for cleaning up the creek, the EPA took responsibility.

The EPA has proposed a plan known as a total maximum daily load, which seeks to bring pollution in the creek down to acceptable standards.

The EPA’s most recent recommendation calls for Columbia to reduce the amount of stormwater that runs into Hinkson Creek by 39.6 percent, according to a previous Missourian article.

Glascock ended his presentation by proposing more studies and the pursuit of “more modest goals,” which include starting reductions of stormwater runoff at a much lower percentage and finding money to implement a comprehensive stormwater utility plan and long-term monitoring of the creek.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe peppered Glascock, his staff and Boone County stormwater coordinator Georganne Bowman with questions about whether they had factored the work of the Hinkson Creek Watershed Restoration Project into their position. She said the group, which includes representatives of the city, the county and MU, has done volunteer work on behalf of the stream and has monitored water quality in the creek.

City Manager Bill Watkins summarized Glascock’s comments, calling Hinkson Creek “a math issue.” The cost of meeting the EPA’s stormwater detention requirements, he argued, would be significant.

City estimates have placed the cost at up to $300 million. Even a modest estimate of $100 million, Watkins said, would require the diversion of years of sales tax revenue.

Sturtz praised the staff’s presentation but said the council should have been informed much earlier.

“I refuse to vote on this as if this conversation was had a few months ago,” he said.

After the city staff’s presentation, Midkiff spoke to what he called “the other side of the story.” A vocal proponent of the EPA recommendations, Midkiff said the EPA’s use of stormwater as a surrogate for “unknown” pollutants is valid. Stormwater runoff, he argued, is a “chemical stew” full of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, anti-freeze, grease and warm water.

“If not stormwater, then what?” he asked.

Several other speakers followed, including Don Stamper of the Central Missouri Development Council. He called the city, county and MU’s opposition to the EPA plan “a wise decision.”

Sturtz said he was impressed with the amount of expertise the hearing brought to the discussion.

“The kind of conversation we’re having tonight is something to be proud of,” Sturtz said. But he said he found it “insulting” that the council was being asked to vote on a policy opposing the EPA plan after city staff and Shorr already had done so.

Hoppe said the city is partially to blame for the situation it’s in.

“I feel the city has dragged its feet” on the stormwater issue, she said.

Council members Jason Thornill Gary Kespohl, Daryl Dudley and Laura Nauser of the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth wards joined McDavid in favoring the resolution opposing the EPA plan. McDavid said the debate was essential but emphasized that he believes the EPA plan is “not reasonable.”

“I think it has a breathtaking lack of science, and I cannot support it,” McDavid said.

In the end, only Sturtz and Hoppe opposed the resolution. Midkiff said that he expected that result, and he would e-mail the EPA on Tuesday to push for a scheduled approach to meeting its requirements.

The EPA is under a Jan. 31 deadline to complete its recommendation. Both the city and Midkiff have suggested they’re willing to go to court over the matter.

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Aleah Kennedy January 4, 2011 | 9:26 a.m.

This is an extremely well written article.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 4, 2011 | 9:51 a.m.

One inch of rain, over the total Hinkson watershed of 57,500 acres, is approximately 1.6 billion gallons of water. 40% of that is about 650 million gallons. For perspective, the maximum capacity of our sewage treatment plant is about 30 million gallons/day.

We may have to step back and accept that parts of the Hinkson may never be perfect.

There are three DNR studies about halfway down this page:

that show most toxicity is transportation related, and consists mostly of PAH's from diesel soot and asphalt, metals from various parts of cars and trucks, and hydrocarbons from gasoline, diesel, and oil and grease. Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, and antifreeze weren't a significant factor in those samples that were toxic.

It is likely that concentrating remediation efforts at the I-70 and Broadway runoff will give more bang for the buck than other areas. We may have to make a compromise between cost and stream health, since the city has a lot of other things to spend money on also.


(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble January 4, 2011 | 10:10 a.m.

"I think it has a breathtaking lack of science"

This remark is worrisome on a number of levels. It's dubious factually, hyperbolic to a somewhat childish degree, and suggests a lack of sobriety in evaluating the issue.

Our city government, in partnership with the development communtiy, has had a free ride on this issue for too long, and they know it. Now it's time to pay the bill. If they really are serious about the issue - whether or not they agree with the EPA - we'll see some kind of swift and effective action from them.

Mr. Mayor and City Council members: We are waiting.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 4, 2011 | 11:07 a.m.

Well, the meeting went exactly as I expected. Good for them. I suppose that when they pledge allegiance to the republic that they grant themselves conditional waivers regarding the Environmental Protection Agency portion, a sort or non inclusive allegiance. I suppose fascism may not be as bad as the mental images the word conjures. Can I decide which portion of the state code I don't want to follow today?

(Report Comment)
Chris Cady January 4, 2011 | 1:51 p.m.

Some excellent comments here! Especially Mark F. who actually looked at DATA (oh the horror!) and came up with a possible science-based solution. If the city/county wanted to do the same thing I'm sure they could come up with more ideas that lie in that tragically underpopulated middle ground of Practical Solution-ville.

Let's hear something other than No, please.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 4, 2011 | 3:40 p.m.

Some personal observations regarding Mr. Midkiff and Sierra Club.
In 1999 we drove the coastal routes L.A. to Seattle. In Coos Bay, Oregon, a ghost town , we were told by our "mom and pop" motel owners, that the city had been thriving until "they passed those lumber laws". The environmental sponsored laws had/ have decimated the western timber industry and caused terrible loss of jobs. Leaving next morning, news on our radio was that 20,000 people in Oregon were now employed, making wood products from lumber purchased from Canada. In Washington some clear cutting of timber was noted. Most was so far off road that it could hardly be seen. All had been replanted with growing trees of varying heights and all had readable signs stating date of last harvest and date of next, about 20 years in between. I think in Missouri that would be called "farming".
Two days after our return to Columbia, Midkiff was on KFRU bemoaning the destruction of our natural forests by clear Washington as observed by him on His recent trip to the Federal lands there. Since 1974 that state has the strictest Forest Practice Rules in the nation. Can you say "fear mongering"?

March 2005, leaving FL Keys we read from our last newspaper, about the infamous 18 mi, two lane "stretch, Homestead to Key Largo and the accidents and deaths that occur there. FL hiway dept spent 5 yrs dotting I's, crossing T's so that all environmental protections were in place for a project to put concrete medians between the lanes and expand the shoulders to expedite evacuations during hurricanes. The equipment was in place to start work the following Monday, but it wasn't going to happen because the Sierra Club and two other enviro' orgs had gotten an injunction to stop it. They wanted more study. Can you say "obstructionist"?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 4, 2011 | 4:22 p.m.

Sure. Obstructionist. There.

I'm thinking that twenty years should be enough to produce some pretty good chipboard. Or maybe some newsprint for your preferred rag, the one that had to charge money for online viewers to encourage them to continue purchasing disposable forest products every day. I'm glad that you could barely see it from the roadway. That means it barely exists.

And I see you did your part, before writing about that injunction, to study the reason someone got it. Maybe you could share that part with us also. Or maybe you could just stop obstructing the efforts to control the storm water run off. Survey says you voted against the majority.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 4, 2011 | 5:30 p.m.

We'd never have to cut down another tree for paper, if usage of hemp for paper pulp were legal.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 4, 2011 | 5:45 p.m.

Are we interested in achieving the POSSIBLE in some reasonable amount of time, or are we more interested in fighting over the issue itself? One of the four University of Missouri System campuses and its personnel and its practicing alumni in several key industries have accumulated considerable experience with the Sierra Club, and they with us.

A "my way or the highway" approach to these matters may serve to keep courts busy, and it certainly gives journalists something to fill column space, and it can result in serious expenditures - none applied to solving the actual problem.

First, can we (all potential parties involved, not just the local ones) even AGREE on what degree of "cleanliness" is required of Hinkson Creek? Please say it is not going to be the same purity as distilled water!

Once - if it's possible - we get an agreement on that, I believe Mark Foecking's suggestion holds merit. Some of us, who have spent a professional lifetime dealing with serious real world problems, understand that often and for a number of reasons one simply CANNOT get all the way to a goal in one try or through one "round" of remediation. In those cases the logical thing to do is isolate the largest single contributor(s) to the problem and attack it first. That's apt to yield the biggest reduction in the shortest amount of time. Then look at doing something about other contributors. As Mark has noted in a post, it appears that a few contributors may be responsible for most of the contamination problem, according to available test results.

Believe it or not, there is a name for this approach: The Pareto Principle. Even the Japanese and other foreigners use it.

I do not understand why an organization that claims to have technical expertise would fail to approach problems in this manner.

My understanding is that Sierra Club is in some way working with MU on fuel conversion for the MU power plant. The proposed fuels will continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a product of their combustion. Missouri University of Science & Technology has now received funding from the UM Curators to build a geothermal power plant, which will produce negligible carbon dioxide. We don't take advice from Sierra Club. :)

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 4, 2011 | 5:53 p.m.

My understanding is that most of the carbon in renewable resources and waste products is emitted during decomposition anyway, and that when you extract carbon from the ground that it would have remained sequestered indefinitely if otherwise, so you might find a better method of attacking the Sierra Club.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 4, 2011 | 5:57 p.m.

Derrick Fogle says...
"We'd never have to cut down another tree for paper, if usage of hemp for paper pulp were legal."

But you would probably then go buy a chainsaw anyway...

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 4, 2011 | 6:25 p.m.

P Allaire - One thing hasn't changed from "my preferred rag" to the Missourian. You are still next to impossible to understand. Can I assume that "disposable forest products" means recycled newspaper from a renewable resource?

"I see you did your part, before writing about that injunction, to study the reason someone got it. Maybe you could share that part with us also." The Sierra Club "got it". Have to assume that they preferred to save the few mangroves lost, rather than see the new safety measures that save lives, installed. btw they weren't able to stop the construction and both the highway and the everglades are still securely in place. Keep crying.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 4, 2011 | 6:26 p.m.

Ellis Smith says...

"The Pareto Principle. Even the Japanese and other foreigners use it."

My gosh! Really? EVEN the Japanese? And other FOREIGNERS?!!!

"My understanding is that Sierra Club is in some way working with MU on fuel conversion for the MU power plant."

Ahem... from the article written in this paper...

"While the Osage Group supports MU’s move away from burning coal, it does not believe that wood is the best transitional fuel.

Ken Midkiff, conservation chair for the Osage Group, prefers natural gas because it's clear that gas emits less of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than coal, while it is not yet clear how biomass emissions compare. He raised three concerns:

* The potential release of more carbon dioxide from the burning of woody biomass than is expended from coal burning.
* The availability of woody biomass.
* The sustainability of wood harvest.

Midkiff said the key question is whether forests can recover fast enough to make wood burning carbon-neutral."

Hey I bet even the Japanese and other foreigners know how to read.

(Report Comment)
Louis Schneebaum January 4, 2011 | 7:18 p.m.

In the USA, common sense fails unfailingly!

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 4, 2011 | 8:00 p.m.

frank christian says...
"P Allaire - One thing hasn't changed from "my preferred rag" to the Missourian. You are still next to impossible to understand."

Well I suppose that there is something similar to "easy listening" for readers. Perhaps you should stick with Ann Coulter.

Louis Schneebaum says...

"In the USA, common sense fails unfailingly!"

I agree with your statement. However, I anticipate that I will disagree with you should you decide to clarify it...

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 4, 2011 | 8:56 p.m.

Hey, Paul, I suggest you not get in the way of a Manly Man and his Need To Use A Chainsaw.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 4, 2011 | 9:02 p.m.

Frank's idea of a "good" regulation? A moralistic one.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 4, 2011 | 9:47 p.m.

If Ellis can tout his experience of "...a professional lifetime dealing with serious real world problems..." can I tout my experience as a troubleshooter too?

While I think Mark's numbers on the Hinkson basin runoff may be a bit of a red herring (even if the soil is already hyper-saturated not all of that rain will find it's way into the creek), his approach and suggested action are spot-on. Study the data, identify your first most probable problem, and work on eliminating that.

To quote a variant of Voltaire, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

While I think the city is, and has been, very irresponsible regarding the issue of runoff into the Hinkson, it doesn't do anyone any good to force them to fight against the idea that they must achieve perfection, instead of helping them take a positive step in the right direction. The lawyers are sure to profit, and gadflies will get to strut and crow in public, but is anything really useful being done?

For once, please drop the torches and pitchforks, and freaking get to work on something!

the h4x354x0r

(Report Comment)
Dale Jones January 4, 2011 | 9:56 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Ellis Smith January 5, 2011 | 12:36 a.m.

@Derrick Fogle:

It seems to me we are in agreement. Identifying what Pareto analysis calls "the vital few" and going straight to work on correcting them is often the best approach. People employ the Pareto Principle without calling it that. Who cares - it's the results that count!

If the problem here were strictly flash flooding, rather than water quality, I've seen "retention basins" as a counter measure. Part of the runoff during hard and/or sustained rains is diverted to a natural man-made catch basin, where it is held temporarily. When the regular drainage system returns to carrying less runoff, the contents of the catch basin are slowly released. As you've noted, during retention some water is absorbed, and there could also be evaporation, depending on how long water is held in the basin.

But one only has to look at a map or aerial photos of Columbia to ask the question, "where do we put the #%$&* basin?" What real estate will be sacrificed to build the basin? Not many merchants and/or home owners want their property condemned, and if Chancellor Deaton and his merry men aren't thrilled over sacrificing portions of their campus, I can understand. :)

Obviously, some things need to be part of initial urban planning, and not as "retro."

But I DO like your comments.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 5, 2011 | 1:06 a.m.

Regarding my previous comment:

Obviously the catch basins cannot be both natural and man-made. Typically man-made, although I've seen them landscaped around the edges and they may look as though they are "natural." As a safety precaution (accidental drownings) they must always have perimeter fences.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 5, 2011 | 9:26 a.m.

Derrick, if they legalize hemp, we'll both be running around with chainsaws. Or at least some good pruners.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 5, 2011 | 11:48 a.m.

Don't confuse industrial hemp with the pot people smoke to get high. I found out as a teenager in Kansas that the hemp that grows wild along the roadsides (ditch weed) has virtually no THC content.

Prohibition of cannabis as a recreational psychotropic drug is enough of an absurd over-reaction; the prohibition of cannabis as a medicinal and/or therapeutic substance is even more ridiculous; the illegality of industrial hemp is absolutely absurdly ridiculous times a million.

Industrial hemp has a LOT of uses, none of which involve getting high. It's extremely easy to grow, and acts as a nitrogen fixer. It's a relatively rich source of biomass for fuel production (although there are technical issues regarding sustainable conversion, just like corn to ethanol), and it's a great source of raw fiber for textiles and paper production.

(Report Comment)
Chris Cady January 5, 2011 | 12:21 p.m.

OK, so the Sierra Club is partisan. It should be noted that Mr. Shorr has represented land developers for years, and they have a big stake in this game. But if I call the Sierra Club anti-commerce I'd have to call Mr. Shorr and the developers anti-environment. I don't think either one is true. Very few business people wake up in the morning thinking of new ways to trash the environment.

Derrick Fogle, I like your 'freaking get to work on something' approach. :-] Would you be interested in joining a watershed group, or perhaps volunteering with the City's stormwater outreach efforts? This problem comes from all of US, and individual action is required just as much as corporate and government action to fix it.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 5, 2011 | 1:24 p.m.

Derrick Fogle wrote:

"Industrial hemp has a LOT of uses, none of which involve getting high. It's extremely easy to grow, and acts as a nitrogen fixer."

Cannabis sativa hemp does not fix nitrogen. You may be thinking of "sunn hemp" which is a legume and does:


(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 5, 2011 | 2:34 p.m.

@Chris: I'd love to, but I'd be a big disappointment. I don't actually have a lot of time to do much besides take potshots on discussion forums. I'll do what I can in terms of online advocacy, but you don't want me in any kind of face-to-face meetings. The work that needs done beyond the 'strong back, weak mind' realm. I do follow Columbia Stormwater on Facebook, and tend to share their (really great) stuff.

I must defer to Mark on the nitrogen fixing issue. Agriculture isn't exactly my strongest suit. Thanks for de-mis-informing me. :-)

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 9, 2011 | 7:53 a.m.

Few other thoughts on the issue:

Diverting the first tenth of an inch of rainfall (which is the dirtiest) from the I-70 and Broadway outfalls may be relatively inexpensive and feasible from a land area standpoint. This could be treated conventionally and released to the stream over time.

Turbidity from land disturbance would have to be mandled by inspection and enforcement of runoff ordinances. If a developer is responsible for erosion, he should be required to fix it.

That said, I dislike it when this type of issue becomes an environment vs. big money thing. While I believe developers should pay for the resources they use, and any damage they cause, the driving force behind these developments is the wants and desires of your average consumer. And as far as automobiles go, even the greenest of the green among us own them, or at least use them from time to time.

All of us make an impact.


(Report Comment)

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