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EPA Calls on State of Missouri to Set New Water Quality Standards for St. Louis Segment of Mississippi River

Release Date: 10/29/2009
Contact Information: Kris Lancaster, (913) 551-7557,

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., October 29, 2009) - EPA has determined that the State of Missouri needs new or revised water quality standards to protect a 28.6-mile segment of the Mississippi River around St. Louis that flows from North Riverfront Park to the confluence of the Meramec River. This EPA action directs the state to address this area of the Mississippi River to protect public health for recreational uses such as tubing, water-skiing and swimming.

EPA Region 7 Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division Director Art Spratlin said, “It is imperative that Missouri take necessary action to protect users of the Mississippi River from high levels of pathogens and bacteria largely resulting from untreated wastewater. We've found that people engage in recreational activities in this part of the Mississippi River and downstream, so their health must be protected.”

Following today’s action, Missouri will have the opportunity to review its analyses and collect additional information to revise its water quality standards and resubmit them to EPA for approval.

The Mississippi River upstream, downstream, and across the Illinois state line from this 28.6-mile segment near St. Louis is designated for what is referred to as primary contact recreation, also known as whole body contact recreation. In its determination, EPA explained that Missouri has not demonstrated that whole body contact recreation cannot be attained in this portion of the river. The determination also finds that Missouri has not shown that its current standards will protect downstream waters as required by federal regulations.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District is discussing with EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) plans to address issues with combined sewer overflows, and today’s action should further help to protect water quality for local citizens.

MDNR earlier had sought the more protective standard, but the Clean Water Commission refused to approve that approach.

EPA made a determination in December 2008 that portions of the Mississippi River upstream and downstream of St. Louis should also be protected for whole body contact recreation. Missouri recently revised its water quality standards in response to this earlier determination, and EPA anticipates the state will soon be submitting those revisions to EPA for final review.

EPA oversees the protection of water quality as required by the Clean Water Act. The Agency is working with the public, community leaders, local and state agencies to address growing demands on the nation's water resources.

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The decision letter is available at: