As his Department of Natural Resources’ decision to withhold information about contaminated water at the Lake of the Ozarks comes under fire, Gov. Nixon says he’ll hold DNR accountable.
"When I first heard about it … I indicated I thought it should’ve been released, and certainly feel like it should have at the time that it was available," Nixon said. "We will continue to press forward to release information as it becomes available and we’ll cooperate fully with whoever, it’s just public information that should’ve been released sooner."
"We have certainly sent a clear signal, and I have personally, that it’s important to release that information," he said. "That is part of an ongoing process, but the bottom line is the information should’ve been released and I’ve made that point eminently clear to those in charge of those departments."
Department of Natural Resources officials are accused of holding onto the information for four weeks. Samples at the Lake taken at the end of May showed high levels of E. coli bacteria, but DNR didn’t release the results until after the Memorial Day holiday.
The Attorney General’s office is investigating whether DNR violated the Sunshine Law by ignoring requests for the information about the E. coli levels by a Camdenton newspaper and the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance.
DNR reports that 29 of the 55 sites that were sampled on May 26 found E. coli levels above the EPA’s recommended single sample maximum level of 235 colonies per 100 milliliters. Five of the 59 sites that were sampled on June 22 had elevated results, but were below the EPA recommended single sample maximum level. DNR says that heavy rainfall on May 26th might have contributed to the higher levels of E. coli by carrying waste found in the soil from septic tanks or sewer systems, perhaps even heavy concentrations of water fowl, animal waste or manure. DNR promised further investigations and stated it would take any action necessary.
DNR says it is in the third of a five-year study to establish a baseline at the Lake of the Ozarks by which to determine the overall health of the lake. The water samples are expected to include coves from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam. The study is a cooperative effort led by the Department of Natural Resources and includes the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance, which provides trained volunteers to collect the water samples, Ameren UE, which pays $15,000 per year for the five-year study, and the Department of Conservation.
Sen. Brad Lager (R-Savannah) says it’s unacceptable to withhold information from the public, because you believe it might hurt tourism.
"For me what this is really about is making sure that we have integrity and public trust in Department of Natural Resources," Lager tells the Missourinet.
Lager chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and the Environment. He plans to call the committee next week and discuss a review of DNR’s actions; a review, not an investigation. Lager insists this will not turn into a Republican legislative body investigating a Democratic administration.
Brent Martin contributed to this story.