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Swim At Your Own Risk In MO Waterways?

June 30, 2010

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - While the Show Me State has not battled its own oil spill, it has had its share of waterway problems - most notably with E coli at the Lake of the Ozarks and Jacks Fork River. Zach Crow with Friends of Ozark Riverways says Missouri falls short of meeting standards set by the Clean Water Act, the federal law that governs water quality and pollution.

Crow points out that although not all waterways are tested for E coli, those that are need stronger enforcement, stronger permitting regulations and an improved monitoring process to protect the public.

"It's not a question of it being dangerous. It's a question of 'How much risk do we take by letting people swim in these waters?'"

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) takes water samples from all state park beaches each Monday, with results posted on its website as early as Wednesday afternoon. Currently, the only beaches closed are due to high water from recent rains. But DNR does recommend that swimmers keep their eyes and mouth shut.

Caroline Ishida, an attorney with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, says maintaining water quality needs to be a higher priority for the state.

"When you have water that has a high level of chlorides or lead or whatever the pollutant is, you're risking the chance that future generations are going to be able to enjoy those waters."

Missouri has more miles of rivers and streams than any other state in the country.

More information is available at www.dnr.mo.gov or www.mostateparks.com/beaches.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO