The Clean Water Crew
less a problem in Missouri than in states to the north. Mercury occurs naturally in some places, and it appears to enter streams and lakes through the natural cycle of evaporation and rain. Mercury, dioxin and other complex and deadly chemicals that can cause severe health problems appear to be dropping out of the atmosphere.
Some atmospheric pollution is traceable to its source. Pollutants put in the air by power plants, waste incinerators, factories, pulp and paper mills and autos can be blown by wind and air currents and fall from the sky as rain, snow and dust, contaminating waters far from the source of pollution. The pollutants that enter Missouri waters from the sky include those most harmful to people and wildlife, such as lead, PCBs and dioxins.
Water pollution can sicken and, as shown in Milwaukee where 100 people died in 1993 from water pollution linked to a virus, even kill people; it can also impact their wallets. If Mark Twain Reservoir in northeast Missouri experienced a severe pollution flow into the lake, what would Missourians lose? According to values compiled by Duchrow, the 18,600-acre lake provides an annual net benefit from angling of almost $6 million, has an economic indirect benefit of over $10 million and supports 154 jobs.
For a bigger body of water like Table Rock Reservoir, the combined annual benefit of angling soars to over $40 million and involves twice as many jobs.
The Environmental Services Unit's responsibility is to protect the fish and wildlife of the state. The Conservation Department believes that educating the public is necessary to slow the degradation of Missouri's aquatic resources.
The Conservation Department's water quality responsibility also extends to providing information on federal permits related to navigable stream channels, federal dam relicensing, DNR projects relative to pasture run-off, effluent regulations for cities and industries and permits that limit the amount of ammonia and other contaminants in some waste discharges. They also comment on Missouri water quality standards and animal waste regulations.
Just over three-fourths of the fish kills reported to the Conservation Department are caused by low oxygen in private ponds and lakes. These are often aggravated by too many nutrients, decaying vegetation and hot weather. One-fourth of kills are traceable to illegal releases of waste to public waters.
Given the chronic nature of water quality problems, the Conservation Department's Environmental Service Unit is likely to be busy into the future ensuring Missouri's waters stay as clean as possible. "Our goal," says Weithman, "is to keep the many streams Missouri is famous for clean and productive, so future generations of Missourians can enjoy them while fishing, boating, swimming and using drinking water."