With the Trump EPA’s Blessings, Missouri Waters Down Obama-Era Quality Requirements for the State’s Lakes
Missouri regulators are using fishy science to write water quality standards for its lakes.
Missouri based its regulations—approved by Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency—on the health of sport fish like the bass favored by billionaire Trump donor Johnny Morris, not the health of the state’s children who swim in or get their drinking water from lakes.
“Human health standards should be based on what’s safe for humans,” says Heather Navarro, executive director of the coalition.
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, which thinks calculations about water safety shouldn’t be based on what’s best for fish, sued.
Missouri regulators adopted water standards based on what’s best for fish after groups like Associated Industries of Missouri and Regulatory Environmental Group for Missouri opposed adopting EPA standards that benefit human health. Missouri didn’t set numeric limits for pollutants to try to ensure that the state’s lakes are safe for swimming.
Cattle rancher Michael Parson, a Republican, is Missouri’s governor. Other red states like Arizona and Nebraska have tougher water regulations with rules that screen or limit how much nitrogen or phosphorus can be in the water.
Environmental attorney Albert Ettinger says Missouri’s standards for lakes won’t prevent pollution.
“By the time you can see the cancer, you have a big problem,” Ettinger says.
‘Not Scientifically Defensible’
Nitrogen and phosphorus, found in fertilizer or manure that farmers spread on their fields, contribute to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where fish and other living things must swim away or die. Missouri is one of the worst contributors to this annual dead zone which was larger this year than the state of Hawaii.
Under Obama, the EPA told Missouri that it needed to consider the health of children under six who could be exposed to toxic algae and that its proposed regulations “may not be scientifically defensible.”
About 77% of Missouri’s lakes would be impaired under the stricter EPA standards that the agency wanted to impose under Obama, including Lake of the Ozarks which bills itself as “the Midwest’s premier lake resort destination.”
Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, also a Republican, stacked the state commission that helps set clean water standards, the Missouri Clean Water Commission, with pollution-friendly members like Pat Thomas, the treasurer of the Missouri Republican State Committee.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and other Missouri Republican lawmakers urged former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to use the laxer rule “developed for Missouri waters with Missouri expertise and Missouri-specific data.”
Jim Gulliford, Trump’s pick to head the EPA in the Midwest, complied.
Featured image: Bass fishing on Missouri’s giant Lake of the Ozarks (Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau)