The Attorney General has announced his recommendations that came out of a symposium concerning water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks back in August.
Attorney General Chris Koster says his office came up with 12 recommendations from the discussions there. One of them has to do with addressing the rogue septic systems at homes throughout the lakeshore.
“The best way to do this is through a regional sewer effort, which is why our number one recommendation is for the commission of Camden, Miller, Benton and Morgan counties to work together to create a regional sewer district whose boundaries would surround the Lake of the Ozarks,” Koster said.
Experts suggest that system could cost upwards of $150 million dollars and take 10 to 20 years to complete. Koster says a regional sales tax may be the way to pay for that, considering how many people go to the lake but don’t live there year-round.
Another of Koster’s recommendations could be fairly controversial.
“We are recommending the legislature enact legislation requiring all on-site (septic) systems located within 2,500 feet of the Lake of the Ozarks to pass an inspection at the time of sale. Failing systems would be required to upgrade or connect to a regional sewer system as soon as that becomes available,” Koster said.
Donna Swall is with the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance. She says she supports all of the Attorney General’s suggestions. But we asked her what locals will think of that requirement.
“I think there’s going to be, probably, some debate over that one. But you have to start somewhere and I think it’s important that someone step up to the plate to take responsibility for what we’re going to do to protect the quality of the lake. I think it will become a talkative issue,” Swall said.
Koster says it’s a necessary step.
“If we are indeed serious about protecting water quality at the lake and as populations and septic usage dramatically increase in coming years, then addressing these aging septic systems is critical. Failure to establish some minimal standards of testing is the equivalent of willingly allowing these aging systems to leech sewage into our lake,” Koster said.
Here are all of Koster’s recommendations, as provided by his office:
Based on information presented at the symposium, public comments, and a review of previous related studies, Koster issued the following 12 recommendations:
1. Because the greatest threat to long-term water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks comes from thousands of aging and poorly maintained on-site sewage disposal systems, the commissions of Camden, Miller, Morgan, and Benton counties should move forward with the formation of a regional sewer district.
2. The University of Missouri-Extension should conduct a study to determine how many on-site sewage disposal systems are currently located around the perimeter of the Lake of the Ozarks, and of those systems, the number that were constructed prior to the enactment of minimum construction standards in 1995. The University should publish a report of its findings, so the information is widely available for planning purposes.
3. During the 2011 and 2012 recreational water seasons, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources should conduct microbial source tracking at the Lake of the Ozarks based on a targeted sampling plan developed by the United States Geological Survey and the University of Missouri-Columbia.
4. Pursuant to its FERC licensing agreement, AmerenUE currently funds the water quality monitoring regime at the Lake of the Ozarks. AmerenUE’s commitment expires in March 2012. As the Lake’s leading private steward, the Attorney General requests AmerenUE commit to funding water quality monitoring at the Lake of the Ozarks for an additional five years.
5. Over the next six months, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources should engage the expertise of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in evaluating whether a health advisory system should be adopted to manage public health risks at Missouri state park beaches.
6. Over the next three years, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources should adopt a predictive modeling tool to assess recreational water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park beaches. This predictive modeling tool will record real-time environmental data that has been shown to be highly correlative to E. coli bacteria levels. Over the next five years, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources should work toward implementing this predictive modeling tool at all state park beaches where E. coli levels most frequently exceed standards.
7. The commissions of Camden, Benton, Miller, and Morgan counties should work together to address non-point sources of nutrient loading in the Lake of the Ozarks. Specifically, they should collectively encourage or require through ordinances, education, and/or financial incentives low-impact development landscaping around the perimeter of the water’s edge. The commissions should also consider ordinances, education, and/or financial incentives to encourage or require homeowners and businesses around the Lake’s perimeter, particularly golf courses, to use low-phosphorus or phosphorus-free fertilizer. Such an incentive program could include a special designation or recognition, such as “Lake Protector,” for any person or entity utilizing low-impact landscaping or low-phosphorus fertilizer.
8. The Missouri General Assembly should enact legislation requiring owners of on-site sewage disposal systems to pass an inspection at the time of sale for all real estate transactions located within 2,500 feet of the Lake of the Ozarks. While this undertaking would require a significant legislative effort, from environmental, public health, and economic perspectives, requiring mandatory inspections at the time sale is the best way to protect this recreational water body.
9. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources should hire, and the Missouri General Assembly should fund, additional full-time inspectors dedicated to the investigation and enforcement of violations of the Missouri Clean Water Law in the Lake of the Ozarks watershed. Currently, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has only two inspectors charged with the protection of 1,150 miles of Lake of the Ozarks shoreline.
10. The “On-Site Disposal System Law” in chapter 701 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri should be amended to better accomplish the goal of protecting water quality and public health in the state of Missouri. To this end, the Missouri General Assembly should amend chapter 701 to enhance the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ inspection authority and enhance civil and criminal enforcement authority for county prosecutors.
11. The Missouri General Assembly should consider implementing a tax credit/deduction for individuals who own grandfathered on-site sewage disposal systems and wish to construct properly engineered, sited, and permitted systems within 2,500 feet of the water’s edge at the Lake of the Ozarks. The tax credit/deduction should be prioritized according to individuals who are (1) financially disadvantaged, (2) operating a grandfathered on-site sewage disposal system, and (3) unable to hook up to a centralized sewer system.
12. The Missouri General Assembly should increase criminal penalties for violations of the Missouri Clean Water Law, chapter 644, Revised Statutes of Missouri, if the violation creates a substantial likelihood of endangering human health, the environment, or property.