DNR chose "impact on tourism " over Health and Safety in May
The Kansas City Star reported, Thursday, July 16, 2009, Missouri agency withheld report of E. coli reaching unsafe levels in Lake of the Ozarks. State officials sat for four weeks on a report that showed E. coli was above safe levels in the Lake of the Ozarks around Memorial Day. A national clean-water expert and author said the report should have been released about May 28 when the danger was imminent, not June 26, when it was finally released with lower June samples. The state standard for E. coli is 126 colonies per 100 milliliters of water. More than half of the 60 samples taken May 26 exceeded that standard, state records show. At least two samples were 19 times above the standard.
Many Missouri lakes are not monitored for E. coli. But Lake of the Ozarks is in an unusual situation. As the result of a lawsuit, Ameren Corp. agreed in 2007 to provide $15,000 a year for five years to monitor for E. coli as part of a state settlement over a dam failure. The Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance, manned by volunteers with oversight by DNR employees, collects samples six times a year during the swimming season. For the last two years, the DNR has released the monitoring report promptly, as soon as a laboratory has analyzed the samples. The alliance puts the report on its Web site and includes a color map of where the samples were taken. But in May, after the samples were collected and the laboratory analyzed them, the DNR did not release the report.
The Joplin Globe Editorial, Friday, July 17, 2009 said it all, Deceiving the Public. What happened to the greater good of the people? We don’t think posting no swimming signs for a few weeks would have created a panic. The warnings should have explained that heavy rains in May washed hazardous bacteria into the lake. Donna Swall, director of a group that did sampling on May 26, begged state officials to release the report, according to the Star. Instead, the DNR traded public trust for tourism dollars. Withholding this type of information is wrong, plain and simple, and the public has a right to demand accountability from the DNR. The state agency, at the very least, violated the state’s open-records law when it refused to divulge the report to the public. The mission of the DNR is to protect our water quality, not cover up its contamination.
July 23, 2009, The Kansas City Star reported "Senate committee to probe delayed E. coli report". Sen. Brad Lager, a Savannah Republican and chairman of the Senate standing committee on environment, said Thursday he will begin a thorough review of why the Missouri Department of Natural Resources did not release the report for more than a month. Top DNR officials told The Star they withheld the report because of concerns over the impact on tourism and over creating a public panic.
Attorney General Chris Koster has announced he will investigate whether DNR violated the Missouri Sunshine Law when it did not release the report. The stories have created a public outcry. The National Sierra Club Water Sentinels Program this week called for DNR Director Mark Templeton to be fired and reprimands of two other DNR employees. “DNR stands for Do Not Release,” said Scott Dye, national program director.