The Clean Water Crew

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

the sewage output of St. Louis.

Animal wastes often are stored in lagoons for land application as fertilizer when conditions are suitable. Waste from these lagoons sometimes escapes and flows into a stream or lake, where the impact on life, from fish to aquatic insects, can be devastating. When manure breaks down in water it can deplete the oxygen in the water; the ammonia in manure is also toxic to fish and other aquatic life. The Missouri state legislature has passed laws to regulate animal confinement operations.

In 1995, nine livestock manure incidents polluted 56.6 miles of streams and killed over 302,000 organisms, including fish. Responsible parties paid $49,750.41 in restitution to the state as a result. The Department of Natural Resources notes that more than 60 percent of operations at farms using a lagoon method for removing and storing manure had evidence of an illegal discharge of manure over a five-year period.

All but one of the kills, which involved poultry, was caused by hog wastes from large confinement facilities. Richard Duchrow, a retired environmental services biologist with the Conservation Department who tracked water quality for over 25 years in Missouri, calls the sight and smell of these large manure spills "overpowering." He says manure spills have caused the largest fish kills in recent record, though a more typical water quality investigation involves municipal sewage or an industrial release that kills stream life on a smaller scale.

In 1997 the Conservation Department made a commitment to work with private landowners and others to deal with water quality problems caused by waste spills from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The Conservation Department Position Statement on Animal Waste Management calls for using Conservation Department and University of Missouri lands to demonstrate livestock management practices, research and testing of innovative waste-handling methods. The Conservation Department offered staff support, information/education and matching grants to organizations and government agencies to promote demonstration watershed projects.

One of the federal government's most problematic Superfund pollution sites is in Missouri, where lead mine tailings tower over the banks of Big River. A looming question asks how you mine lead without harming the environment. Lead mine wastes containing one or two percent lead in the past were put in large piles, some of them adjacent to Big River in southeast Missouri. The material, which has the consistency of sand, is unstable and resists the growth of vegetation that might help hold it in

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