Communication breakdowns lead to no action on cleaning the Lake of the Ozarks
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Communication breakdowns lead to no action on cleaning the Lake of the Ozarks

Date: November 3, 2009
By: Max Reiss and Rebecca Berg
State Capitol Bureau
Links: See the series on Sewage at the Lake

Intro:  As politicians and government bureaucrats have been pointing the fingers of blame for this summer's "E. coli-gate" scandal, an investigation by radio reporter Max Reiss and his newspaper partner Rebecca Berg have uncovered an unbelievable lack of government communication and coordination. Max Reiss tells us in this report how that lack of state agency collaboration contributed to at least one summer of ignored, polluted lakes.
RunTime:  2:40
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: The Missouri Natural Resources and Health Departments each play some of the most important roles in keeping the Lake of the Ozarks clean.

The Natural Resources Department maintains the lake's water quality while the Health Department regulates the septic and sewage systems around it.

The two departments have not communicated when there's been a public health issue in the Lake of the Ozarks.

Health Department On-site Wastewater Coordinator Jim Gaughan.

Actuality:  GAUGHAN1.WAV
Run Time:  00:14
Description: "Its not the normal practice for us to notify DNR. . .That's not to say it couldn't be done or it shouldn't be done but it's not the normal practice."

The health and natural resources departments have a memorandum of understanding. That document outlines how the agencies are supposed to communicate - especially if something leads to sewage entering the lake.

But, the issue is not isolated to the state level either.

Tracy Rank works as an Environmental Public Health Specialist for Benton County on the Lake of the Ozarks. 

She says the natural resources department does not require her to communicate with it.

Rank has seen some nasty stuff go into the lake.

Actuality:  RANK1.WAV
Run Time:  00:10
Description: "A few years back I had a lady that had a shop vac and then when her tank got full, she would just suck it up with a wet vac and then blow it out into the lake."
Jim Miller is an Environmental Public Health Specialist for neighboring Morgan County which also borders the lake. 
 
He says he wouldn't hold back from telling the natural resources department if sewage makes its way into Morgan's coves.

Actuality:  MILLER1.WAV
Run Time:  00:13
Description: "If DNR wants to be notified, I would be happy to notify them. But its not something they would necessarily be involved in on the residential side, you know, that we have authority over."

Even Natural Resources Director Mark Templeton told state senate investigators he did not know the memorandum of understanding existed.

That is until after the governor's office released the high E. coli readings at the lake two weeks after the department took the samples.

Actuality:  MARKTEM1.WAV
Run Time:  00:15
Description: "I subsequently learned that there was a memorandum of understanding between health and the department which was about five years old. And in fact, Margaret Donnelly and I have spoken about the need to update that document."
 
 
The same day Templeton gave this testimony to senate investigators, Governor Jay Nixon issued him a 2 week suspension for giving the governor false information about beach closings.
 
Both Natural Resources Director Mark Templeton and Health Director Margaret Donnelly refused repeated requests to be interviewed for this story.
 
Reporting from Jefferson City with Rebecca Berg, I'm Max Reiss, Newsradio 1120, KMOX.
 
 
Intro:  State agencies not communicating has led to harmful substances entering the Lake of the Ozarks and put the public at risk not just last summer but for many summers.
RunTime:  0:44
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: If Natural Reosurces Department officials discover harmful bacteria in the Lake of the Ozarks, they do not let the health department know about it.

As a matter of fact, recently reinstated natural resources director Mark Templeton didn't know that communication was supposed to happen until his seventh month on the job.

Actuality:  MARKTEM1.WAV
Run Time:  00:15
Description: "I subsequently learned that there was a memorandum of understanding between health and the department which was about five years old. And in fact, Margaret Donnelly and I have spoken about the need to update that document."

Governor Jay Nixon issued Templeton a two week suspension for giving him wrong information about beach closings.

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Max Reiss, Newsradio 1120 KMOX.

Intro:  A significant communication breakdown among state agencies has led to serious health risks for people going into the Lake of the Ozarks.
RunTime:  0:43
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: The Natural Resources and Health departments do not require local health authorities to communicate with them if harmful substances make their way into the Lake of the Ozarks.

Tracy Rank is an Environmental Public Health Specialist for Benton County which borders the lake.

She inspects septic tanks has seen some nasty stuff go into the lake.

Actuality:  RANK1.WAV
Run Time:  00:10
Description: "A few years back I had a lady that had a shop vac and then when her tank got full, she would just suck it up with a wet vac and then blow it out into the lake."

Health officials from around the lake said they would gladly keep the natural resources department informed when harmful bacteria enter the Lake of the Ozarks.

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Max Reiss, Newsradio 1120 KMOX.


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