That seems like the story lately for many of Missouri’s aquatic recreation areas. This week the Missouri Coalition for the Environment said they are taking action to change that. They filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the EPA to prompt them to enforce the Clean Water Act in Missouri.
Clean water is an investment we need to make in this state and this lawsuit is a huge step to making this happen, said Caroline Ishida, staff attorney for MCE.
Missouri touts itself as having the most waterways of any of the 50 states, but at issue are the roughly 150,000 miles of streams that are not designated–basically meaning they are unprotected from discharges and unregulated.
“What do the waters look like that we’re not paying attention to if the ones we are testing are contaminated with high levels of E-coli?” Ishida asked.
MCE brought the suit after more than 5 years of discussions with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
I was at the MDNR stakeholder meetings in the spring of 2005, and wrote a story about water quality then. Crafting rules that account for various uses of Missouri’s waterways is a daunting challenge, but failing to protect our most important resource is unacceptable.
Ishida said people need to speak up about how they use their local waterways and to educate themselves about the designated uses, as well as know what’s going on upstream. You can check current stream classifications from the Missouri Secretary of State’s site.
Renee Bungart, spokesperson for MDNR, said they just received a copy of the lawsuit Thursday and that they are looking it over. She added that MDNR staff are also working on a plan to address the loss of permitting fees, which are set to expire at the end of this year. The fees help support their monitoring and enforcement of water quality standards.