Public comment deadline for EPA lake water quality study extended

Joyce Miller
newsroom@lakesunonline.com
The deadline for submitting comments has been moved from February 5 to March 22.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and stakeholders concerned about the Environmental Protection Agency recommending Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake be added to the state’s list of impaired waterways have been able to convince the federal agency more time is needed to assess the lake water quality.

The deadline for submitting comments has been moved from Feb. 5 to March 22. 

EPA’s recommendation stems from their analysis of data they say indicates the levels of chlorophyll-a in Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake exceed Missouri’s nutrient criteria that could impact the health and diversity of aquatic life. 

The EPA issued a notice this week extending the public comment period to March 22. The original deadline for the public comment period issued on Dec. 7, 2020, was Feb. 5. The new deadline is March 22. 

On Nov.30, 2020, the EPA partially approved, partially disapproved Missouri’s 2020 303(d) list of impaired waters. 

DNR is required to submit the list every two years under the Clean Water Act. The list includes waterways in the state that exceed certain criteria, including elevated levels of several types of nutrients. The nutrient that caught the attention of the EPA is chlorophyll-a.  Elevated levels of the nutrient can cause algae blooms that, in some situations, can be a hazard to fish. 

Although DNR did not classify either Lake of the Ozarks or Truman Lake as impaired, EPA added the two bodies of water, along with 38 others in the state to their list of recommendations. EPA disapproved the portion of the list that did not include the 40 additional lakes as impaired against the state’s chlorophyll-a numeric nutrient criteria. In other words, according to EPA, Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake have elevated levels of chlorophyll-a that qualify the bodies of water to be listed as impaired. 

EPA’s recommendation caught the attention of former state representative Rocky Miller and others concerned about the environmental health of Lake of the Ozarks. 

Miller said DNR put Truman and Lake of the Ozarks in the Ozarks eco-region zone, which has a much lower threshold for chlorophyll a.  Both Truman and the Lake’s watersheds are in the Plains zone and therefore any testing done should reflect that zone’s limits. 

In a previous interview, Miller said high chlorophyll numbers are not a human health hazard but they are the reason the lake is a great sport fish destination.  A fish kill in the upper reaches of the Lake is not wanted, but when it does happen it is usually associated with droughts and low oxygen and therefore is not manmade, but an act of nature.  

Miller said Lake of the Ozarks is one of the most tested waterways in the state and is and always has been safe for full-body contact and recreation.

Written comments must be sent by email to R7-WaterDivision@epa.gov on or before March 22, 2021.

The public notice, as well as the decision letter, can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/mo/state-missouri-2020-list-impaired-waters.