Gov. Jay Nixon announced today a sweeping enforcement initiative aimed at improving water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks. The enforcement action will include a prompt and comprehensive baseline study of contaminants in the lake, enact a zero-tolerance policy for water quality violations, perform an inspection sweep of existing wastewater permit holders in the Lake of the Ozark watershed and apply rigorous scrutiny to applications for new wastewater discharge permits.
"The Lake of the Ozarks is a tremendous asset to our state, with hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors coming here for recreation every year. It is critical that the quality of the water in that lake and the health of those who use it are protected," Gov. Nixon said. "Unfortunately, it is not in dispute that present water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks is unacceptable. That's why I am ordering action that will gather data on precisely what is in the lake, find the sources of those contaminants, and stop more of those pollutants from entering the water."
The initiative ordered by Gov. Nixon calls on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to take four specific actions to improve water quality:
- A massive inspection sweep of about 400 area facilities that hold current wastewater permits nearby the Lake of the Ozarks or major tributaries. A zero-tolerance standard for permit violations will be applied and violators found during the sweep will receive administrative penalties issued by the DNR Director Mark Templeton or referred to the office of the Attorney General for enforcement action. The sweep will take 8 to 10 weeks to complete.
- The implementation of a zero-tolerance policy, resulting in administrative action or referral for prosecution for any violation of state clean water policy or of the conditions of a permit. No violation which leads to deterioration of water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks will be treated as too minor for action.
- Simultaneous with the inspection sweep, DNR will complete a comprehensive baseline survey of water quality at the lake, testing for all relevant contaminants -whether bacteriological or from petroleum or pesticide-in locations across the entire lake. The comprehensive baseline survey will be submitted to the governor on December 31, 2009, and will illustrate what contaminants are present in the lake and where future enforcement efforts should be focused.
- DNR will institute the most rigorous possible standard of review of every application for permit in the Lake of the Ozarks watershed. The department will apply a strict scrutiny standard when reviewing requests for permits that would allow discharge of wastewater or land disturbances that might affect water quality in the lake.
"We will clean up and prevent contamination in the Lake of the Ozarks," Gov. Nixon said. "And though this strict approach to water protection may be controversial, nothing should be off the table when it comes to protecting our waters and the public health."
In order to improve water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks, Gov. Nixon has instructed DNR to make full use of its authority to deny permit applications or to revoke existing permits where appropriate.
"The Department of Natural Resources will utilize every power at its disposal to ensure that water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks is not degraded any further, to better understand the chief causes of water quality problems, and to carry out our long term plan for maintaining high water quality at the lake," DNR Director Templeton said.
While the crackdown on violations of current permits and more stringent oversight of applications for new permits will cut down on pollution and improve water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks right away, careful long term planning of development at the lake will also play an important role in preserving water quality for future generations.