EPA urged to reconsider listing Missouri lakes as 'impaired'
O'FALLON — The eight Republican members of Missouri's congressional delegation are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider listing 40 of the state's waterways as "impaired," a list that includes the Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Reservoir.
A letter from Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Vicky Hartzler and signed by the other GOP delegation members was sent this week to Edward H. Chu, acting administrator for the EPA's Region 7, Luetkemeyer's office said Thursday. The letter said the impaired designations "would have significant impacts on families, landowners, small businesses," and on the state's economy.
"Not only was this listing misinformed, but it could potentially cost our communities $1.7 billion in local revenue at a time when our economy is still recovering and small businesses are working to get back on their feet," Luetkemeyer said in a news release.
For example, the listing could force local governments to update wastewater facilities, potentially costing them millions of dollars, Luetkemeyer's spokeswoman, Georgeanna Sullivan said.
The EPA announced the listing of the 40 lakes and reservoirs in November, while under the administration of President Donald Trump. The change in administrations has not impacted the list.
The EPA cited high levels of chlorophyll-a in each waterway. Chlorophyll-a is a measure of the amount of algae growing in the water, according to the EPA's website. Though a natural part of freshwater, too much algae can cause green water, odor and can result in decreased levels of dissolved oxygen.
Those decreased oxygen levels can impact the health of aquatic life. The EPA cited fish kills at Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Reservoir and Jackrabbit Lake in Jackson County. But the congressional letter said some of the fish kills were not verified by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources or the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Missouri DNR Director Carol Comer also wrote to EPA, on March 16, and asked for more time to gather new data and evaluate existing data. Comer wrote that it would be "premature" to list the lakes as impaired.
"The consequences of listing are serious, and therefore impairment determinations require a level of confidence we have not yet reached for these lakes," Comer wrote.
Some lakes were placed on the list based on older data "that have a low probability of being representative of current conditions," Luetkemeyer and Hartzler wrote. The letter also notes that while EPA criteria indicate that points of compliance examined should be near the dam or outflow of each lake or reservoir, many were not.
EPA spokesman Curtis Carey said in an email that the agency received more than 80 comments concerning its plan to add the lakes and reservoirs to the impaired list. "After considering the comments received, EPA may make revisions, as appropriate, and will transmit the EPA's final decision to Missouri," he said.
Carey did not offer a timetable on when the final decision will be made.