As someone who is interested in Water Quality – you may want to mark this event down on your calendar:
The Missouri State Government Review Commission will be at 9 a.m., July 15, 2005, at the Kenneth E. Meyer Alumni Center at Southwest Missouri State University. The address is 300 S. Jefferson Ave., Springfield.
Missouri state government has not been reorganized since the 1970s and evaluating the current structure and distribution of duties is something that needs to be done. However, there is always opportunity for mischief in such a valid enterprise.
Some topics that you might want to raise might include:
- Maintaining regulation of Confined Animal Feeding Operations with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rather than transferring that activity to the Department of Agriculture. The regulation of these units has much more to do with protecting the environment than regulating the treatment of animals.
- Reversing the budget cutting in DNR. We may be dangerously close to the point where DNR programs have become so weak that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decertifies the DNR to administer federal laws on a variety of topics. The result would be that farmers, developers, commercial concerns, and manufacturers would find themselves dealing with federal regulators out of Kansas and Washington, DC who could care less about the Missouri General Assembly instead of DNR, the agency that does understand where its money comes from. Sediment is the largest single pollutant entering our waterways, but budget cuts mean that the DNR no longer enforces land disturbance laws. They will respond to citizen complaints, but they aren’t specifically out looking for violations. Recently the EPA did a SW Missouri sweep and in every case where a site visit was made, the developer or contractor was found to be in violation of federal and state laws.
- Combining the administration of on-site wastewater treatment systems. Essentially that responsibility is split between DNR and the Department of Health and the dividing line, if memory serves correctly is 5 individual systems. Below that number you are generally overseen by the County Health Department, some of which can have a pretty checkered compliance record. Over that, your installation and operation is overseen by the DNR. Frankly during hearings some two years ago, even state legislators were confused over the details of the split responsibility. Making the change to a unified office is clearly a mixed bag. On one hand, the DNR currently is not equipped to handle all the single unit builders and installers with whom they would have to deal and driving to a regional DNR office is certainly more out of the way than going to the local county seat for a permit. I also have to give high praise to the State Department of Health and Senior Services which has been working diligently for the last couple of years to improve the situation. On the other hand, the Department of Health and Senior Services is charged with protecting human health and not necessarily the environment as is DNR. DHSS Staff are certainly concerned about the impacts of septic systems on the environment, but that is not their agency focus.
- And I would encourage you to add your own ideas about ways to improve the way that water quality issues are handled by the Missouri state government.
Floyd Gilzow, Executive Director
Upper White River Basin Foundation