The Clean Water Crew

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

the Marmaton River in southwest Missouri caught fire in 1991, alarm bells rang. The dump contained thousands of tires. Citizens could see smoke from the burning tires and reported the incident. The ash from burning tires contains chemical compounds that are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. A two-inch rain could have killed fish in 20 miles of the river, but the fire was extinguished, the toxic ash removed and the disaster averted.

In another potential pollution incident, a dam holding back coal mining wastes was declared unsafe. Should a flood have occurred, the dam might have failed and highly acidic wastes would have flowed into a tributary of Truman Lake. All the fish in the creek and an arm of Truman Lake would have been killed. Reclamation of the lake and the abandoned coal-mined areas around it prevented a fish kill.

Some Missouri streams are so chronically polluted that the fish population never has a chance to recover. This sometimes occurs downstream from a site where an industry is violating it's water quality permit. "You might find a few minnows," says unit leader Steve Weithman, "but you know there should be sunfish and bass there, too. It's a bad situation because you don't have the evidence you would have for a normal fish kill." Weithman says Missouri has made a lot of headway in controlling chronic pollution of this type.

A similar situation can develop below a municipal sewage plant where excess nutrients continue to be added to the stream. The stream gets so much nutrient enrichment that it becomes choked with algae, killing fish and other organisms. Table Rock Lake is not as clear as it once was because of excess nutrients from treated sewage. This not only affects fishing, but reduces the value of Table Rock Lake for swimming, SCUBA diving and boating.

Other water pollution problems can develop where a truck or railroad car is involved in an accident and the contents spill, eventually finding their way into a creek or draining into the recharge area of a spring. Missouri is also laced with underground pipelines, and these sometimes break on or near stream crossings.

Manure spilled from animal confinement facilities that concentrate many animals in a small area has become a significant problem nationwide. There are at least 300 of these facilities in Missouri. One company reportedly houses almost one million hogs, mostly in northern Missouri. The wastes exceed

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