Denny Stephenson’s cows aren’t white anymore.
The rock bed of Sugar Branch, a stream that feeds into Perche Creek and eventually the Missouri River, has been covered in mud since construction began upstream at the new MidwayUSA headquarters at Route J and U.S. 40 this summer.
Stephenson’s cows have been unable to drink from Sugar Branch, their usual source of water, since July.
“I raise Charolais cattle, and Charolais cattle are snow white cattle, just real white,” said Stephenson, the owner of Stephenson Charolais Farms. “And they’re not white anymore because as they do happen to cross this creek, and there will be dark mud clear up to their knee joints now from just crossing that mud all the time.”
Stephenson filed a complaint with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in July, citing sediment in the stream that prevented his cattle from drinking the water.
On Aug. 17, the Department of Natural Resources issued a letter of warning saying the pollution was a result of MidwayUSA’s contractors’ failure to use best management practices on the development site. The letter went to Brian Burks of Emery Sapp & Sons and Jason Kemna of the Potterfield Group and required a response documenting improvements at the site by Sept. 18.
On Sept. 17, the principal engineer on the project, Tim Crockett of Crockett Engineering Consultants, responded on behalf of contractors. In the document obtained by the Missourian through a Sunshine request, Crockett said the back slopes and diversion berms that direct runoff had been seeded and mulched. He also said topsoil has been restored to the development site and some silt fences had been installed.
“A large portion of the site, once grading was complete, was seeded and mulched before the remaining construction was completed,” Crockett wrote in the letter. “Efforts have been made to stabilize disturbed areas as soon as possible as opposed to leaving the entire site open all at once.”
Stephenson said he won’t be able to tell if the changes are effective until the next big rain.
Changes on the MidwayUSA site won’t address the 2 to 3 inches of mud that sullies about a mile-long section of the creek bottom, Stephenson said. When it does rain, he thinks the problem will only be exacerbated.
“As soon as we get a 2-inch rain, it’s just going to pick all that mud up again and stir it up, and it’s just going to be a chocolate stream again,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson has been in touch with Boone County Southern District Commissioner Fred Parry, who he said visited Sugar Branch about 10 days ago. Stephenson proposed that the county hydrowash the stream to loosen up and remove the mud, but Parry worried that would only push the problem further downstream.
“If this was in Columbia and this was Hinkson Creek, I mean, flooded with mud, people would not be happy and they would not tolerate it,” Stephenson said. “But it’s out in the country, so we tolerate it. And I don’t think that should be.”
This is not the first time the MidwayUSA site has been a source of contention for local residents. As previously reported by the Missourian, residents raised concerns about runoff into the stream and the potential effects on cattle during a public hearing when the county commission voted to rezone the land in 2019.
Stephenson said he hasn’t heard from the Department of Natural Resources or anyone from the MidwayUSA project since his complaint was filed in July. He found out a letter of warning had been issued by reading about it in the Missourian.
“It’s kind of disheartening. I always live in fear that I’d do something wrong and the DNR would come after me,” Stephenson said. “It just really doesn’t feel that anybody’s really concerned about it, and I think they should be.”