It appears Governor Nixon’s office did know, early on, that high E. coli levels threatened the public’s safety at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The Springfield News-Leader and the Kansas City Star report that a former Department of Natural Resources official told Senate committee staff that she notified a top aide to Governor Nixon about the elevated levels on May 29th. The governor’s office has asserted repeatedly that it didn’t know about the problem until June 23rd. DNR has admitted it kept the information from the public for four weeks, worried that it would hurt tourism at the lake.
Both The News-Leader and The Star say they used a Sunshine Law request to obtain a transcript of the interview between Senate staff and former DNR communications director Susanne Medley, who resigned abruptly last week. Medley told staff she informed top Nixon aide Jeff Mazur about the contamination on May 29th, a day after she learned of them. Medley further stated that she kept Mazur abreast of additional E. coli test results. Medley adds that Mazur instructed her on June 26th to keep any news about high levels of E. coli from the state’s largest media outlets. DNR released the test results for both May and June later that day.
The Nixon Administration has steadfastly denied knowing about the E. coli report and DNR’s withholding of it until a June 23rd meeting when DNR Director Mark Templeton met with Nixon Chief of Staff John Watson.
Gov. Nixon held a news conference on Wednesday to announce an initiative to improve water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks. The four-part plan begins with the inspection of about 400 area facilities that hold wastewater permits close to the Lake of the Ozarks of major tributaries.