An old Peggy Lee hit goes “Manana … manana … manana is good enough for me.” Remember that old song about procrastination? It’s the theme song for the Water
Pollution Protection Program administrators at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
For 25 years now, they’ve been stonewalling environmental groups that want the federal Clean Water Act enforced. Supposedly all water bodies in our state were going to be clean by 1983. Count ’em up: that’s t-w-e-n-t-y–f-i-v-e years that we’ve been in noncompliance. Manana.
And it’s almost cute how the DNR gets around the law that says all our streams should be clean: some streams, like the Current River and the Big Piney, are “classified” and others, like the River Des Peres in St. Louis, are “unclassified”. The classified streams have to meet the standards of the Clean Water Act, but an unclassified stream can be toxic enough to dispatch a T Rex with a single sip. What’s in those streams is irrelevant because we choose not to pay attention to them, says the DNR. Nifty solution, huh?
After a mere 25 years, some of the state environmental experts on water quality have exhausted their patience. Three of them (Ken Midkiff of the Sierra Club and Kim Knowles and Dan Sherburne of the Coalition for the Environment) are on the Small Streams Working Group, an MDNR committee that pretends to care about water quality. Those three made some waves last September. At a meeting of the working group, Knowles pointed that all streams are required to support aquatic life and Midkiff took it further by pointing out that all streams are required to be clean enough for in and on the water recreation.
The working group hasn’t met since.
Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Don’t imagine these three are being stonewalled again. No, no. There are “good” reasons why the Small Streams Working Group hasn’t met again, such as …
Nah, on second thought, I’ll spare you all of the DNR’s convoluted, involuted excuses about why the working group can’t meet. Suffice it to say that the environmentalists are going to sue.
Certainly they will give the DNR fair warning before they file suit. On Monday, Midkiff plans to mail a letter of intent giving the DNR sixty days to take action. And by “action”, he doesn’t mean getting the River Des Peres cleaned up before the end of June–nothing so unreasonable. He’ll merely warn them that they have sixty days to declare that river and all other “unclassified” streams as classified, so that they will have to start working to clean them up.
That sort of action doesn’t require sixty days. Five minutes oughta do it.