Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What is this going to cost us?

The Lake of the Ozarks is an economic engine for Missouri, drawing hundreds, thousands, millions of people to central Missouri (northern Ozarks) for recreation, creating jobs, some seasonal and some year-round.

Biggest part of the visitors are rich St. Louisans and out-of-state vacationers, plus college students who want to go there to party. It's grown up so much around the lake that septic systems leak into it and have fouled it, although people still go there to ski and swim and fish. It's gotten to where it ought to be called the Lagoon of the Ozarks.

It's so nasty that our Gov. Jay Nixon has announced a plan to clean up the lake. Well, it's kind of a plan. Here's what the Columbia Missourian reported:

"Preserving Missouri's water is of critical importance, and it has long been clear that the Lake of the Ozarks is a resource in need of more stringent protection," Nixon said in a written statement. "Recent sampling results have reinforced what many of us have believed for years: the lake is heavily used but under-protected, and action is needed to change that equation."

Residential septic tanks, which fall under the purview of county governments, would be a focus at the Lake of the Ozarks under the governor's proposal. According to the governor's office, the ultimate goal will be to replace all septic tanks with sewer systems; however, installing sewers at the Lake would be costly. For now, the state will assume responsibility to inspect existing septic tanks in hopes of curbing some pollution.

"The real challenge at the Lake of the Ozarks is that you have thousands of septic systems and many of them have significant problems," said Scott Holste, the governor's spokesman. "By giving Department of Natural Resources authority, it will be major step forward."

In November, the Columbia Missourian reported the failure of septic tanks as a contributing factor to pollution at the Lake.

The governor's office also emphasized that county officials would be given more authority to inspect septic tanks should the governor's proposal be enacted.

This suggestion was met with some skepticism by Tracy Rank, the environmental public health specialist for Benton County, one of the four counties in which the Lake of the Ozarks sits.

"It sounds wonderful and everything to give us authority, and if the state said to do 100 percent inspections of septic tanks, we would do our best," Rank said. "But sometimes, 100 percent just isn't possible."

The counties at the Lake of the Ozarks would be most aided by state government money to help county residents replace failing septic tanks or for the counties to use to construct sewer systems, Rank said.

What does any of this mean? Are we taxpayers in Phelps County going to end up paying for sewer systems in Camden County?

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