October 8, 2015

Missouri’s heavy rains wash bacteria into recreational waterways

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer and many people are ready to go swimming, but health officials warn heavy rains may wash harmful bacteria into swimmers favorite recreational waterways.

The Little Sac River Bridge

The Little Sac River Bridge

The Springfield-Green County Health Department and the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks have started monitoring popular swimming spots in Greene County for the presence of E. coli.  The E. coli count is an indication of fecal water contamination, which can make swimmers sick.

Kathryn Wall is the Public Health Information Administrator for the Springfield-Green County Health Department.

“We found some areas that were a little bit higher than we like, the highest was the Little Sac River, and the E. coli levels there were just a little too high for our comfort level,” said Wall.  “We’re not telling people don’t go swim or anything like that, just be more aware of what you’re getting into.”

Wall said E. coli levels are often high during periods of storm water runoff.

“Don’t go swimming after really heavy rains, that’s going to tend to really wash things out into those creeks, if the water is murky, generally it’s a place to avoid,” said Wall.  “E. coli is most common in fecal material and so in the Ozarks we do have some agriculture, so some of that is going to naturally wash away into the water streams, so usually we just kind of tell people to wait it out.”

Wall said there is a certain amount of danger when E. coli levels are high.

“Too high of concentrations can make people sick and in some cases can be fatal, especially for people very young, very old, or immune compromised for one reason or another,” said Wall.

Wall said swimmers should avoid swallowing water and swimming when sick.  Wall said it’s important to thoroughly wash hands and shower after swimming.

“There a lot of people who are at the creek all day and they take a lunch and might not think about it, they get out of the water, and go straight to their lunch, and don’t think about that bacteria that’s on their hands,” said Wall.

The most recent test results for the Springfield area can be found on the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s website.

New state psychiatric hospital officially under construction

The building of a new state psychiatric hospital in Fulton is now underway. Governor Jay Nixon spoke at Wednesday’s groundbreaking and says the state-of-the-art facility is critical for people with challenges.

groundbreaking1“We have a moral responsibility to its patients, their caregivers and this community. This community has been so open and accepting of the difficult mission assigned to it,” said Nixon.

Nixon says the maximum security facility will be a game changer for those suffering from severe mental illness.

“It will be a cohesive, secure and therapeutic environment. It will include a 300 bed, high security hospital,” says Nixon.

The new campus will include improved vocational and recreational rehab facilities, modern dietary services, a new administration building, an auditorium and a high efficiency heating and cooling system.

hospital1The project is estimated to cost $211 million. The Governor says an investment of this nature is vital to do and a vote of the people was not necessary.

“That’s why the way we did it over the last three years to put some general revenue in to make sure we had the planning done. When interest rates were low we made the long term investment that this facility is,” said Nixon.

Fulton State Hospital was built in 1851 and is the oldest state psychiatric hospital west of the Mississippi River. Last year, the Legislature backed the Governor’s plan to replace the outdated and deteriorating facility with the new hospital that will be safer for patients and staff and more conducive to modern treatment.

The Department of Mental Health is slated to have the project finished by the end of 2017.

Dan Patterson, KWIX, contributed to this story.


MU study finds atmospheric release of BPA may reach nearby waterways

A University of Missouri study says chemicals released in the air by industrial sites and wastewater treatment sites could adversely affect wildlife and humans.

Chris Kassotis and his team of researchers believe atmospheric releases of BPA may create a concern for contamination of local surface water, which may lead to human and wildlife exposure.

Chris Kassotis and his team of researchers believe atmospheric releases of BPA may create a concern for contamination of local surface water, which may lead to human and wildlife exposure. (Photo Courtesy of the University of Missouri)

Researchers from the University of Missouri have studied Missouri water quality near industrial sites that are allowed to release Bisphenol-A (BPA) into the air.  BPA is a chemical often used to make plastic containers that store food and beverages.  BPA has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.

Chris Kassotis and his team sampled water near locations with reported atmospheric discharges of BPA as identified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We sampled at the Crooked River in Richmond, Missouri and Flat Creek near Jenkins, Missouri,” said Kassotis.  “We also sampled near other point sources of pollution, so wastewater discharge sites in four areas of the state as well.”

Kassotis said the study revealed two key points.

“We found that the BPA concentrations of Bisphnol-A were up to ten times greater than normal near sites where there had been some sort of atmospheric discharge of the chemical and there were elevated amounts of anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic chemicals in sites that had some sort of wastewater influence,” said Kassotis.

Kassotis said exposure to BPA may produce adverse health effects.

“BPA interacts with the endocrine system of animals and humans,” said Kassotis.  “BPA can lead to the development of breast and prostate cancers, obesity, other metabolic diseases, decreased fertility and reproductive health, neurological and behavioral effects such as ADHD and austism.”

The study was published in the journal, Science of the Total Environment.

Senate leaders negotiating to try and end deadlock

Senate Republican and Democrat leaders have met to try to negotiate a deal that would get legislation moving again on this, the final day of the session. Democrats have been blocking debate since Tuesday when Republicans forced a vote on a so-called “right to work” bill.

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin) and Senator Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis)

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin) and Senator Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis)

Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard (R-Joplin) says he’ll see if his caucus agrees with the ideas that came from his meeting with Minority Floor Leader Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis).

“I think we can find a path forward on [the Federal Reimbursement Acceptance bill] and maybe one other piece of business, but he’s going to go to his caucus and I’ll go to mine,” said Richard. “I think there’s probably a way to get something done.”

The FRA bill that would let Missouri collect about $3.5 billion in federal tax money that would go to Medicaid.

“He brought some alternatives to us. Some we agreed on, some we didn’t. He’s going to take them back to his caucus,” Richard added.

Richard would not comment on what the other piece of legislation would be. He said that’s in negotiations.

Senator Keaveny says he’s keeping his options open.

“We don’t have a firm commitment on either side,” said Keaveny. “We’ve got some ideas that I think might get this thing resolved for the short term. I think there are longer term issues that we need to address.”

“I would love to get something accomplished. I think we’ve got a good chance of doing it, but I can’t commit either way. With things this delicate, things can change very quickly.”


$3.58 billion at stake in bill to receive federal funds from tax on hospitals

Missouri could lose $3.58 billion if it doesn’t pass a Federal Reimbursement bill, or FRA, by the end of the session Friday, but that bill could be caught up in political strategizing.  Republican leaders might use that bill as leverage to get to a vote on a so-called “Right to Work” measure.

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin)

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin)

FRA Senate sponsor Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) says the bill has become an important game piece.

“I suspect that there’s a lot of acknowledgement on both sides of the aisle that the bill has to pass. That’ll be a major key in what happens next week,” said Schaefer.

Senate Floor Leader Ron Richard (R-Joplin) says “Right to Work” is one of his priorities and he intends to bring it up early next week.

“There are priorities on both sides of the aisle. If mine don’t make it, nobody else’s will either,” said Richard.

Senator Paul LeVota (D-Independence) was asked if he thinks Richard is holding the FRA issue “hostage.”

“It sounds like it is. It sounds like what Senator Schaefer and the Floor Leader are saying is that it is being held hostage. That’s a shame. If FRA is a priority, they can bring it up,” said LeVota.

The FRA funds are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. The allowance gives Missouri federal matching funds of 60% from a tax on hospitals.