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The Clean Water Crew

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

"This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? . . . Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. . . ." -- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac.

Missouri is proud of its waterways. On our license plate, a wavy blue line appears under the state name. The line symbolizes the state's many bodies of water--rivers, streams and lakes. But what are we doing to those waterways? In many cases, their only value seems to be as a conduit for wastes.

The United States has taken great strides to rectify some types of water pollution. In 1997 the Clean Water Act was 25 years old. Untold tons of toxic chemicals and raw sewage have been removed from public waters in those years. Many pairs of eyes now watch over Missouri waters as throngs of citizens have joined in over 1,200 Stream Teams to monitor and protect waterways in the state.

When it comes to water pollution, however, problems seem persistent:

  • In a national analysis, according to the National Wildlife Federation, Missouri ranked "poor" in meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act because of its lack of controls on "diffuse" sources of pollution; no states were listed within the top category.
  • Missourians are still warned to limit the fish they eat from certain waters.
  • In St. Louis, millions of gallons of raw sewage flow into the Mississippi River when 150-year-old sewer lines are flooded by heavy rains.

The U.S. Bureau of Mines says that runoff from mining has contaminated more than 12,000 miles of streams in the U.S. Some are in Missouri.

The Conservation Department's Environmental Services Unit works with the Department of Natural Resources and the Attorney General's office in water pollution cases where aquatic life is killed or has the potential to be killed.

The Conservation Department conducts about 400 water quality investigations each year. Two-thirds of these are caused by low oxygen or disease, but the rest are caused by pollution. Citizens report many of these stream pollution cases. Missouri Stream Teams report pollution problems they discover in some of the creeks and rivers they monitor below pollution sources. A hotline operated by the Department of Natural Resources also results in many pollution investigations.

When a tire dump along

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