COLUMBIA – Eleven streams and two lakes in Boone County are included in a proposed list of impaired waters for 2012 first compiled by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, then revised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The number of Boone County water bodies on the 2012 list, which is subject to 60 days of public comment before becoming final, is nearly double the seven that were included on the 2011 report. The annual list is used to determine which bodies of water fail to meet standards set by the federal Clean Water Act and is required by Section 303(d)(2) of the act. It is often referred to as the 303(d) list.
The EPA list shows 342 bodies of water as impaired; 88 water bodies that were previously listed have been removed. The Natural Resources Department's suggestion that 11 other water bodies be taken off the list was rejected.
Eight Boone County streams are on the list for exceeding acceptable amounts of E. coli bacteria. They are:
- A 4.4-mile section of Bass Creek.
- A 7.8-mile section and a seven-mile section of Bonne Femme Creek.
- A 5.5-mile section of Gans Creek.
- A 1.5-mile section of Grindstone Creek.
- An 18-mile section of Hinkson Creek.
- A one-mile section of Hominy Branch.
- A nine-mile section of Little Bonne Femme Creek.
- A 6.3-mile section of Turkey Creek.
The report also lists:
- A 7.9-mile segment of Cedar Creek for lacking adequate numbers of macroinvertebrates, an important food source for larger aquatic life.
- A 0.7-mile segment of a tributary to Foster Branch for un-ionized ammonia.
- A six-mile section of Fowler Creek for lacking adequate amounts of dissolved oxygen.
A. Perry Philips Lake and Lake of the Woods made the list because they harbor fish that contain mercury.
Georganne Bowman, stormwater coordinator for Boone County Public Works, attributes the E. coli pollution to animal waste and wastewater from lagoons and small treatment plants.
"Many parks put a high concentration of animals in the floodway," Bowman said. "It's important to be aware of those areas and to encourage people to pick up after their animals."
To help combat the issue of waste entering the floodway, the county has worked with the city of Columbia and the Boone County Regional Sewer District to take lagoons and wastewater treatment facilities off line.
"Boone County has taken off line 700,000 gallons per day of lagoons and wastewater that was going into Hinkson and its tributaries. It is now going to the city wastewater treatment plant," Bowman said.
Hinkson Creek, which begins in northwestern Boone County and flows through the city of Columbia on its way to Perche Creek, remains on the list from previous years and has been the subject of years of negotiations by the city, the county, MU, the Natural Resources Department and the EPA about how best to mitigate pollution.
An 18-mile stretch of Hinkson Creek is on the list for being contaminated with E. coli, which makes it unsafe for whole body contact. Ken Midkiff, chair of the Missouri Clean Water Campaign and conservation chair of the Osage Chapter of the Sierra Club, takes issue with how the city has alerted the public about the pollution.
"It is a travesty that the general public is unaware of water bodies unsuitable for whole body contact," Midkiff wrote in an email. "The Boone County/Columbia Health Department places signs along Flat Branch informing the public of the dangers of contact. No such warnings are placed on Hinkson Creek."
State and federal laws do not require warnings about whole body contact and water quality, Midkiff said, but public health laws "require that the public be informed of health hazards."
"Contacting water that has high levels of harmful bacteria constitutes a public health hazard," Midkiff said.
For Bowman and Boone County, the biggest priority coming out of this report is protecting Bonne Femme Creek from further pollution from E. coli.
"That's a high priority for me because of the caves and the recreational activities such as Rock Bridge State Park," Bowman said. "It's always easier to protect a resource than to rehabilitate. I want to put effort into keeping Bonne Femme Creek clean now instead of putting funding into it 10 years from now."
Gans Creek also flows through Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
Cedar Creek, which forms the boundary with Callaway County, was the only Boone County stream listed for lacking sufficient macroinvertebrates.
"Those things are the bottom of the food chain, and larger invertebrates eat them," Midkiff said. "If they're not there, the larger organisms don't fare very well."
A lack of macroinvertebrates in water could happen for many reasons, including pollution or something as simple as a change in water temperature, Midkiff said.
Midkiff noted a surge in the number of impaired streams and lakes included on the list. In 1996, he said, 66 water bodies were on the list, compared with 342 this time around.
"Whether this is due to a decline in water quality, increased reporting and testing, or a combination of the two is unknown," Midkiff said.
The EPA is requesting public comment on the impaired waters list through Sept. 12. The public can learn more about the commenting period and read the full EPA decision letter on the EPA website.
To provide public comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail comments to Carol Taylor-Curth, Water Quality Management Branch, EPA Region 7, 901 N. Fifth St., Kansas City, KS, 66101.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.