EPA's Missouri list of impaired water bodies released for comment

Sunday, July 15, 2012 | 6:18 p.m. CDT; updated 8:35 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 15, 2012

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.


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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 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.

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Peter Maier July 17, 2012 | 9:49 p.m.

When will people finally accept the fact that EPA never implemented the Clean Water Act (CWA) as intended by ignoring 60% of the pollution in sewage. This was the result of an incorrect applied pollution test EPA used to set sewage treatment requirements and did not realize that by using the test incorrectly, it ignored all the pollution caused by nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste in sewage, while this waste, besides exerting an oxygen demand (like fecal waste) also is a fertilizer for algae, thus contributes to dead zones, now often solely blamed to the runoffs from cities and farms.
Correcting this test seems to have been impossible during the past 30 years, since nobody wants to be associated with such a basic mistake. Now you may be able to help by supporting a petition on, by clicking on and may be we will not any longer waste time and money on programs that are solely there to cover up this basic mistake.

(Report Comment)
frank christian July 18, 2012 | 6:59 a.m.

Another good way "to help" will be to change the administrators of our federal government, this Nov.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 18, 2012 | 8:05 a.m.

Sadly, Frank, I think the EPA, as with a number of federal regulatory agencies, has a life all its own. We might expect a Romney administration to be less kind to EPA than the present administration, but that might only last as long as the Romney administration would.

Presidents come and go, people are born and in time will die, but government agencies go on forever.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking July 18, 2012 | 8:38 a.m.

Peter Maier wrote:

" often solely blamed to the runoffs from cities and farms."

This potential issue does not pertain to Columbia because of how our secondary effluent is filtered through wetlands and allowed to recharge the aquifer. The cattails and other plants use any nitrogen before it gets into the ground, and none is piped to the river.

It's an interesting possibility - to see if there is a problem, you'd have to do a balance between the amount of (N) and (C) oxygen demand remaining in treated effluent (piped to rivers - Columbia does not contribute to that) vs. that which comes from fields, feedlots, and wildlife. My feeling is the agricultural and natural BOD is potentially a lot greater than that from secondary effluent, but ag and natural waste is not piped directly into rivers either, and has the opportunity to degrade or be absorbed before entering a water body.

And Frank, changing the administration will not change this problem, if it exists. In fact, changing administration as you would like it to might make it worse.


(Report Comment)
frank christian July 18, 2012 | 9:45 a.m.

Ellis (or is this Mark F. with your nom de plume?), Our government is not the Sun, to be worshiped and never changed. History will partially agree with you, however. Before 1994, I thought our Congress would forever, be controlled by Democrats, but that changed and great things happened. EPA and MO Dept of Natural Resources were never as much of a problem until Clinton and Carnahan came along. Carnahan's administrator (a "republican") immediately, created such economic damage with his new regs that threat of prosecution for violation of MO law, prohibiting environmental regs more stringent that those of the Federal governmenet (EPA) was all that could stop him. Nixon took office and immediately, Lake of Ozarks became a glaring unattended problem,to worry and depress people.

You are also correct, "Presidents come and go," but the bureaucrats they install, remain. As with Supreme Court Justice appointees, the President that will choose those best suited for the job, not those that will adhere to the agenda, is the one we must elect.

"And Frank, changing the administration will not change this problem, if it exists. In fact, changing administration as you would like it to might make it worse."

Imo, a Republican Administration would determine if this problem exists without daily reports (complaints) from K. Midkiff, and correct it without the overkill of money spent and lost jobs from the U.S. environmental movement.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 18, 2012 | 10:35 a.m.

Frank: I believe that the individual income tax, enacted in the early 1900s, was billed at the time as a "temporary tax."

If that is correct, I damned sure wouldn't want to encounter a "permanent" tax.:)

Municipal water supplies and waste treatment systems are often the province of Civil Engineers. There are of course jokes about Civil Engineers who choose this specialty (at least in the sewer and waste area). More recently a new breed of engineers has come on the scene, Geological Engineering. Among the items these engineers deal with are aquifers (which are a part of physical geology). Just something you can use as a conversation starter at your next cocktail party. I'll have tee martoonis - vodka, not gin.

(Report Comment)
frank christian July 18, 2012 | 11:38 a.m.

Ellis - If those D's had fought those R's over that "temporary tax", the way these D's are fighting these R's over these temporary tax Cuts, we might not have ever had an "individual income tax".

Btw, I've been meaning to ask, what in your opinion, is the value of an environmental engineer? Is saving the planet their only mission?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking July 18, 2012 | 3:33 p.m.

Frank, my master's is in environmental engineering, and it's not an ideological field at all. It's basically concerned with easing the impacts of desired human processes on the environment. It's usually taught out of a civil engineering department because many of the processes involve things like treatment plants and impoundments.

It's the only earth we have, and as such, I'd say that merits some concern for its limits, don't you?

As far as Dr. Maier's concerns, I don't see anywhere (and I haven't read everything on that site) that the mere presence of untreated nitrogen in effluent is a great cause for concern. What needs to be done (and hasn't been) is a comparison of sources to determine how much of a problem this really is (while leaving politics and activism out of it). Does the presence of 20-40 mg/L (N)BOD in effluent feeding the Mississippi, account for a significant part of the nitrogen reaching the Gulf of Mexico, for example? The only way we solve problems is by accurately identifying the cause.


(Report Comment)
frank christian July 18, 2012 | 4:39 p.m.

Why do we, at least me, ask questions that we know are going to get us in trouble? The environmental engineer question was one and I apologize for the impertinence.

My only experience with those in the field, was a friends son, who we were told had achieved a degree in environmental engineering, still stayed at home and never bothered to obtain a job, anywhere. KFRU aired a program hosted by an Environmental Engineer from a school in KC, I believe and his input was nothing but ideological plus political. He told us one day, carbon emissions were going to be reduced thru cap&trade and "there is nothing you can do about it!"

I have to ask why you would state "determine how much of a problem this really is (while leaving politics and activism out of it).", after declaring that the Administration that would more certainly do that (a new R' Administration) "might make it worse."?

(Report Comment)

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