Stream issues before state commission

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:34 a.m. CDT, Saturday, June 28, 2008

Heavy rains may be appropriate weather for today’s Missouri Clean Water Commission meeting.

Storm-water runoff is one of many factors that continue to challenge the health of Missouri’s waterways, especially in communities such as Columbia, where many stores, industries and new developments are located along its creeks and streams. The commission will discuss drinking and recreational water issues, including the recent lawsuit settled between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, which calls for the state to develop water quality standards consistent with the Clean Water Act by April 2006.

In some cases the state “has missed deadlines by 21 years,” coalition director Edward Heisel said.

Other experts said the numbers depend on which waterways are evaluated.

Missouri has more than 55,000 miles of waterways, with 20,000 miles “classified,” meaning they have flowing water at the driest time of the year. Of the classified streams, 5,000 are protected for whole body contact for swimming. If the state cannot come up with a regulation plan by 2006, the EPA will regulate all 55,000 miles for whole body contact.

Scott Totten, water quality expert for the Department of Natural Resources, said that approach is simply not practical or necessary because it’s not even possible to swim in many of the nonclassified waterways. The state must determine whether bodies of water are actually used for recreation or could potentially be used.

Today’s discussion will include an environmental balancing act, taking into account protection of the environment while considering the economic impact of regulations, said DNR representative Kerry Cordray.

In a body of water such as Hinkson Creek, where pollution comes from many sources, state water quality expert Bob Broz said protection has to come from everyone in the watershed.

“Any players involved in the watershed need to look for what’s best in the long term and not just for their own property,” Broz said.

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