Jefferson City--The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hear comments this week on a proposal to amend the state's public notification rules under the Safe Drinking Water Act. An analysis compiled by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a watchdog group based in Washington, DC, indicates that the proposal would weaken the state's current public notice rule at a time when the agency has demonstrated a series of failures to follow the current regulations.
Data compiled by EPA's Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water show that 15 of 25 Missouri state parks listed as active public water systems have had at least one major health-based violation in their history. Lake of the Ozarks State Park, in particular, has repeatedly violated drinking water standards. In June, July and August of 2001, the park's drinking water was contaminated with coliform bacteria. In each case the park failed to notify the public of the problems, even though federal regulation requires that customers be notified within 30 days.
DNR currently relies on the federal rules for public disclosure. The proposal this week would replace it with a much weaker state rule that eliminates a large portion of the federal regulation. Under the proposal "nonacute" violations, like those at Lake of the Ozarks State Park, would not necessarily require public notification. Nonacute contamination contains types of bacteria that would not make an average person sick; however more sensitive individuals, including infants, the elderly, people with HIV/AIDS, or those undergoing chemotherapy treatment, may become ill.
"DNR needs to meet the health needs of all Missourians," commented PEER's National Field Director Eric Wingerter. "The most susceptible individuals are precisely the people who have a right to know when their drinking water is polluted."
The Missouri Safe Drinking Water Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal this Thursday, May 22, at the DNR Conference Center at 1738 East Elm Street in Jefferson City. The meeting begins at 10:00 am.