Senate committee hears E. coli testimony
MDN Menu
MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

Senate committee hears E. coli testimony

Date: January 5, 2010
By: Abby Grimmett
State Capitol Bureau

Intro:  One day before the 2010 legislative session begins, a Senate environmental committee heard testimony about E. Coli levels at the Lake of the Ozarks.
RunTime:  1:13
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: The question before witnesses Tuesday was why the state's natural resources department delayed publicizing test results showing elevated E. Coli levels at the Lake.

Natural Resources Department lab staffer Scott Robinett said the results in question were never meant to serve as a public warning.

Actuality:  ROBINETT.WAV
Run Time:  00:18
Description: The purpose of this study was never to be for a public health information tool, it was originally and still intended to be a long-term study of the overall health of the lake with regard to bacteria.

But Committee Vice-Chairman Republican Kurt Schaefer said it's not the means of collection that's relevant, but rather the results.

Actuality:  KURT.WAV
Run Time:  00:10
Description: If you find unacceptable of E. coli for whole body contact, once you have that information, is it relevant to a public health determination how you found that information?

Ultimately DNR did withhold this information.

Robinett said DNR communications director Susan Medley instructed him to delay releasing the test results, which is not an unusual practice.

But in this specific case, Robinett said the month-long delay was longer than the typical two week waiting period.

From the State Capitol, I'm Abby Grimmett.

Intro:  A former state official admits to withholding information about high E. coli levels in order to form plan of action.
RunTime:  0:45
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: Former Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Joe Bindbeutel took the fall for E. coli controversy once, and Tuesday he did it again.

Before the Senate environmental committee, Bindbeutel admitted to withholding information because the data he received would have misinformed the public.

Actuality:  JOE1.WAV
Run Time:  00:15
Description: "It never dawned on me that by the time it hit my desk and I got the charts and the graphs and the correspondence with the dates and data with the rainfall - which is my main concern - that this was relevant data that you could go back in time and say oh gosh, get out of the water."

Bindbeutel said collecting E. coli data is not meant to raise red flags.

He said the data needs to first be analyzed, so the department can make an informed public announcement.

From the State Capitol, I'm Abby Grimmett.

Intro:  A former DNR official says there needs to be a plan on monitor and publicize information about E. coli levels in Missouri waters.
RunTime:  0:50
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: Before a Senate environmental committee, former DNR deputy director Joe Bindbeutel admitted making the decision to withhold information about elevated E. coli levels in the Lake of the Ozarks.

But he defended his decision saying it was in the publics best interest.

Actuality:  JOE2.WAV
Run Time:  00:13
Description: I take full responsibility for that because I think it was more important, frankly, to have a plan and people understand they're tax money is going to an agency that is doing something about something rather than, I don't know where it came from, I don't know how it got there.

But the committee Vice Chairman, Republican Senator Kurt Schaefer said it isn't right to keep that kind of information from the public, especially when there is a possible health risk.

But Bindbeutel stood by his statement that the Lake was safe, but did suggest there needs to be a plan in place to alert people about E. coli levels.

From the State Capitol, I'm Abby Grimmett.


Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.