The St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer System transports waste water and storm water for approximately 1.4 million people in a 535-square-mile service area covering St. Louis city and about 80% of St. Louis County. It includes over 9,600 miles of pipe, making it the fourth largest in the United States, with 7 treatment facilities processing 330 million gallons of sewage daily.

The system has Combined Sewers and Sanitary Sewers



Combined sewers dominate in St. Louis City and older inner suburbs. These sewers combine household and industrial sewage with rainwater runoff and route it all to treatment plants where it is treated before being discharged into our large rivers. Our combined sewers are some of the oldest in the country – giant brick subterranean tunnels that underlay our historic neighborhoods and downtown. During wet weather – especially during heavy rains – the volume of sewage and rainwater can overwhelm the capacity of the combined sewers. Under these circumstances, the mixture of sewage and rainwater often bypass the treatment facility entirely and are discharged directly to our area rivers. These events are known as Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and they increase the level of pollutants and disease-causing pathogens (viruses, bacteria, and parasites) in our rivers. Wet weather events can also overwhelm sewers in a neighborhood and cause the mixture of sewage and rainwater to back up into basements. These basement backups cause distress, damage and expense.

Sanitary sewers are common in the St. Louis suburbs. These systems, many of them formerly local systems built for neighborhoods or small municipalities, are now under the jurisdiction of MSD. In a sanitary sewer system, the household and industrial sewage is handled in separate pipes than rainwater runoff and routed to a treatment plant. Theoretically, a sanitary sewer system needs to have enough capacity only for the sewage of its service area – not for the hundreds of millions of gallons of runoff from a rain event. Rain water is instead routed through a separate stormwater drainage system and bypasses the sewage treatment plant. However, sanitary systems can overwhelm their capacity when more households or businesses are added to the system without expanding the capacity of the pipes, if the pipes are not routinely cleaned and maintained or if the pipes have leaks from cracks that allow rainwater to infiltrate. Sanitary sewers that are overwhelmed with rain infiltration and excess sewage can also cause basement backups. In some circumstances where sanitary sewer capacity is exceeded, pipes discharge excess sewage into local streams. From Mehville to Ladue, Webster Groves to Chesterfield, these sanitary sewer overflows have been discharging untreated sewage into our local creeks, adding pollutants and pathogens that can make waters unhealthy for fish, aquatic life, and for people. Combined Sewer Overflow discharges into streams are regulated through National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting and should be heavily monitored so that the health of the stream and local residents can be protected. EPA requires communities to minimize impacts of CSOs to water resources. Although common, Sanitary Sewer Overflows are unpermitted and illegal under the federal Clean Water Act.

Fortunately, MSD is conducting an expansive overhaul of the city's sewer infrastructure in compliance with the Consent Decree that became effictive in 2012. Sewer system updates will make overflows much less common, reducing pollutants in local waterways and threats to public health in our community. (see further information on the specifics of the Consent Decree available here). Grounds for filing the suit, the Environmental Protection Agency found that:

–Combined Sewer Overflows discharge 26 billion gallons  of untreated waste and storm water into St. Louis area streams yearly

–Sanitary Sewer Overflows discharge 226 million gallons of untreated sewage into St. Louis area streams yearly


The Clean Water Act aims to maintain the physical, chemical and biological health of America’s waters. In 2007, The Missouri Coalition for the Environment filed a Notice of Intent to Sue MSD because of its sewer overflows. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and filed its own suit that alleged:

1. Violations of section 301 of the Clean Water Act

•Discharge of pollutants from SSOs violating the CWA

•Discharge of pollutants from CSOs violating the CWA

•537 Overflow Locations

2. Violation of section 308 of the Clean Water Act

•MSD failed to report pollutant discharges that endanger human health or the environment

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment joined as an intervenor in the EPA’s Clean Water Act enforcement lawsuit and became full participating members in the litigation because we shared a close and common interest in the enforcement of federal and state laws against MSD to protect our region’s water quality.

After more than two years of mediation, the EPA, MSD, and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment negotiated a Consent Decree. The Consent Decree requires the elimination of illegal sanitary sewer overflows and limits the number of combined sewer overflows. It requires a 23-year timeline to achieve these goals, as well as periodic reporting requirements, sewer improvement and maintenance plans, and expansion of sewer capacity. All of this work will help prevent basement backups and some areas of localized flooding. It also requires a $100 million investment in “green” stormwater technologies in order to reduce rainwater volume in the combined sewer system.

A problem with Kiefer Creek comes to light  

In 2009 a community member came to us with a troubling account from Kiefer Creek. Steve Seyer reported to us that his dog, Adolphus, had become seriously ill after frequent trips to Castlewood State Park. Steve and Adolphus worked out regularly by running the course of Kiefer Creek, where they enjoyed the lush natural corridor.

During many of their outings it would rain, or had recently rained, and Adolphus, like any dog would, drank the water from the creek. During the same time period Adolphus developed serious infections and gastrointestinal problems, and so Steve kept Adolphus home while he nursed him back to health. Based on a process of elimination Steve came to the hypothesis that Adolphus' sickness was connected to drinking from Kiefer Creek.


Hypothesis & Data

Being a resident of the area, Steve knew that there was a not only a spring on Kiefer Creek Road, but also a USGS monitoring station just downstream from the spring. So he checked the USGS Website to see what kind of data they had collected. He found that the USGS had collected flow and guage height measurements every 15 minutes for decades, and that they had collected water quality data at this site on 49 occasions between 1996 and 2004.

At first the data Steve found was a bit perplexing to understand, without a frame a reference it was hard to understand what pollutants to look at and what constituted a dangerous amount of these pollutants. At a glance though, Steve noted that some of the samples showed dramatic increases in bacteria concentrations and that these samples seemed to coincide with elevated flows and gauge heights.


Classified - Unclassified

Around this stage in the story Steve started working with us to better understand the possible water quality concerns on Kiefer Creek and determine what should come next. the first step was deciphering the data collected by the USGS. In terms of the relevant water quality standards developed to protect human and animal use of water bodies.

Then we looked to see what protections are specifically applied to Kiefer Creek using the Missouri DNR GIS dataset of Classified Waters. we found out that the classified segment of Kiefer is protected at the level of Whole Body Contact B for recreation as. So we looked up the water quality standards for recreational uses where we found a table of bacteria limits which have been determined to be protective of whole body contact recreation. 


Classified - Unclassified

We also determined that the stretch of Kiefer Creek from which the samples had been taken was an 'unclassified' stream segment. In Missouri 'Classified' streams are those that are protected by designated uses like the support of aquatic life and recreational use. Only a portion of the waters in the state are currently considered classified, and in the Kiefer Creek watershed Kiefer Creek is only classified from its confluence with the Meramec to where it crosses the western boundary of Castlewood State Park, a stream segment 1.2 miles in length.

Because the data collected by the USGS had been collected from the unclassified segment of Kiefer Creek, it was not subject to review under the protection of any designated uses. And so the problem went unaddressed and virtually unknown while substantially concerning data existed for over a decade. Additionally when we found the data 5 year had elapsed since the last test, but only data collected from the last 3 years can be used to list a water as impaired in Missouri.  

However, If the data had been considered under the same designated use protections as are apllied 1/4 of a mile downstream from the monitoring location, on the classified segment of Kiefer Creek, Kiefer likely would have been added to the list of impaired waters a decade ago.


Impaired = 303d = TMDL

Impaired waters are those that have been determined to be incapable of supporting their designated uses due to a violation of one or more water quality standards. Once a water has been found to be impaired and iss added to the 303d List of Impaired Waters, it is slated for the development of a TMDL or Total Maximum Daily Load.

The TMDL is an in-depth assessment of the sources of the pollutant or pollutants that are causing the designated use impairment. The TMDL will determine the amount of pollution reductions necessary to meet the water quality standard and may include pollution limits for specific sources of the target pollutants. 

303d listed waters may be afforded additional protections from increases in pollutant loads as well as priority status for restoration funding opportunities. We determined that the first thing we should do to get Kiefer Creek cleaned up was to get it added to this list, to formally recognize the problem and begin a strategic water quality improvement process.


Gaining recognition of the impairment of Kiefer Creek

We were left in a situation where we had data showing a likely impairment, but it was unusable for our goal of getting Kiefer Creek added to the 303d List. So we decided to check around for more recent bacteria data that had been collected from the classified segment of Kiefer. As a result of multiple inquiries to various entities likely to collect data on Kiefer, we found data collected in 2009 showing that the classified segment of Kiefer Creek exceeds the safe level for bacteria. 

We submitted our findings in a comment to MDNR regarding the 2010 303d List and Kiefer Creek was added to the list as impaired for recreational use due to bacteria concentrations. In 2012, as a result of the next 303d listing assessment, Kiefer Creek was also listed as impaired for aquatic life use due to chloride levels. 


Deciphering the nature of the problem

Getting Kiefer Creek added to the 303d list was only the first step in a long journey toward substantive water quality improvements. With momentum building around the project and the elevated priority afforded to the Kiefer Creek Watershed as an impaired water, we decided to invest our time into figuring out how the watershed works and determine the possible sources for the bacteria impairment. 

Through our investigations into the watershed we determined that there are a number of likely source of bacteria in Kiefer Creek including failing septic systems, horses, pets, and wildlife. As well, the increased development within the watershed has likely reduced amount of healthy flora and fauna capable of naturally digesting animal bacteria sources. While the synonymous impervious surface increases have contributed to destbilizing the flow regime in Kiefer Creek, reducing the dilution of bacteria pollution and increasing bacteria concentrations in response to storm events.

 It became clear to us that, although there are a number of likely sources of bacteria in Kiefer Creek, there is a larger issue to be considered. The overall health of the watershed, the composition of the landscape, and the presrevation of the most vital and sensitive areas in the watershed. 


Kiefer Creek was first brought to our attention by Steve Seyer – a visitor to Castlewood State Park who had looked into the water quality data on the creek. As we looked into the details on this watershed, we realized how unique and valuable Kiefer Creek is. Kiefer Creek is fed by springs, including one of the largest springs in St. Louis County. Many other suburban streams in the St. Louis area have been destroyed by overdevelopment in the watershed – creating a stream that is dry many days out of the year, until it rains and flash floods. Kiefer, because of it’s springs and groundwater recharge, flows every day of the year, and it does not flash flood nearly as bad as other local streams when it rains.

But Kiefer Creek was not without its problems too. Steve Seyer first looked into the creek’s water quality data because his dog was sick after swimming in the creek. The data he found was horrifying. The creek had levels of E.coli significantly higher than the levels considered safe by the EPA. Why was nothing being done about it? And who could help?

The answers to those questions are tied into complex details about national and state-wide clean water laws. But MCE was the right group to fix the problem. We began by assessing the regulatory structure that affected the creek – What were the tools available to us? Were all the relevant laws being followed? We achieved these goals in the first year of our work:

  • Collected signatures showing that Kiefer Creek was used for swimming, leading to a warning sign was placed by the swimming area in Castlewood.
  • All of the testing data on Kiefer Creek became publicly available
  • Kiefer Creek was listed on the 303d List of Impaired Waters for bacteria and chloride
  • We were awarded a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to develop a watershed plan for Kiefer Creek.

We have done a lot since that first year. Make sure to read more about our work using the menu items on the left.

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This website and other efforts related to the Kiefer Creek Restoration Project are partially funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. MoDNR Subgrant G11-NPS-21.

View Watershed Cairns Webmap in a larger map

208 Miles of Tar Sands Pipelines To Cross Missouri EnbridgePipeline

While national organizations focus on resisting the construction of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a Canadian company plans to start construction as soon as August 2013 on a section of a tar sands pipeline in Missouri.

Known as the Flanagan South pipeline, the 36-inch pipe would stretch approximately 589 miles through four states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. About 208 miles of the pipeline is proposed to cross 11 counties in Missouri: Lewis, Marion, Shelby, Macon, Randolph, Chariton, Saline, Lafayette, Johnson, Cass and Bates.

 On Wednesday 7/17, Enbridge, a Canadian company, hosted a pipeline open house for community members in Marshall, Missouri. In some communities along the route, landowners are asking questions.

 See the news:

Quincy Herald-Whig

Marshall News-Democrat

Columbia Daily Tribune

 A much smaller pipeline, the Spearhead pipeline, already runs the course. The new pipeline has more than three times the capacity and will be carrying a substance known as “dilbit” or diluted bitumen – or simply, “Tar Sands” which refers to its source from the tar sands (a mixture of sand, clay and a viscous low-grade petroleum called bitumen) extracted from mostly open pits in Alberta, Canada. (See this National Geographic story for a good primer on tar sands). 

The Marshall News-Democrat reports an Enbridge public affairs executive saying: "That one (Spearhead pipeline) has about 190,000 barrels per day capacity. The new Flanagan South pipeline will run roughly parallel to this line and it will have about a 600,000 barrel capacity. Really it's about increasing the capacity in this corridor to move oil where it needs to go."

Where it needs to go is the Gulf of Mexico for export to Asia with a stop along the way at refineries in Cushing, Oklahoma.

The company says it is safe. However, in the Show Me State, actions speak louder than words.

Trouble In Michigan

Local landowners would feel better if Enbridge had not experienced a dilbit pipeline spill in 2010 near the town of Marshall, Michigan which contaminated 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River with more than 1 million gallons of the sticky, thick, tarry stuff. Three years later, problems in the River persist. Part of the problem is that Dilbit does not behave like oil. It sinks, which makes traditional oil spill containment tools less effective.

Enbridge Protester Emerges from Pipeline, June 24, 2013

Links to Michigan landowners blog

Three years after Enbridge Spill, Slow Recovery Haunts Kalamazoo River

Arkansas Exxon Dilbit Spill

A recent Exxon oil spill in Arkansas reveals the perils of the diluted bitumen pipelines. On March 31st, 2013, 500,000 gallons of dilbit were spilled into the town of Mayflower, Arkansas. The dilbit emitted hydrogen sulfide, benzene and toluene resulting in citizens sick with gastrointestinal problems, headaches, respiratory problems, skin irritation including chemical burns, and extreme fatigue. The dilbit burst from an aging pipline (like the aging Speahead, noted above) and filled their neighborhood with toxic fumes and black tarry sludge. Aging pipelines may be more vulnerable to the higher pressures required to transport the thick, heavy dilbit. See these:


National Geographic

NBC on Lawsuits

See the lawsuit filed in Arkansas

ScientficAmerican reports, "Yet, even brand-new pipelines can spring a leak: TransCanada's Keystone I Pipeline, which began carrying dilbit from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest in 2010, has already suffered 14 different leaks (pdf)."

In MissouriEventPIpelineEnbridge-ArchieWeb

While politicians have rallied around the company’s promised jobs and Enbridge doles out key chains and tote bags at its open houses, residents in western Missouri have raised concerns for the safety of the public water supply in the rural communities of Adrian and Archie. Water for those communities is pumped from the South Grand River less than a mile from the proposed pipeline. Learn more about their efforts at or find them on Facebook and help out.


Read more: Tar Sands...

Kiefer Creek Titleblock Image

Building A Better Watershed Together

The success of our efforts henges on our ability to communicate and work with community members to foster the implementation of infrastructure improvements and ecosystem restoration. There are many stakeholders and stakeholder groups in the Kiefer Creek Watershed, and we are working to engage all of them in the development of our watershed plan.

Watershed Residents

When you take the time to read the street signs in the Kiefer Creek Watershed you will notice that many of them are named after the creek or the natural features of the watershed. The poeple who live in the area know that they are in a special place. Whenver we meet watershed residents during our monthly hikes or at planning meetings they usually bring up how much the enjoy the natural feel of the watershed. We are working on finding ways to turn the enthusiasm of the residnets into meaningful action in the watershed. As we move forward on our project we hope to launch a number of programs to help residents enhance their watershed:

  • Foster improvement of home and neighborhood landscaping with native plantings and designed features like rain gardens and bio-swales. Through sustainable plantings redients will be able to reduce lawn maintenance costs, increase habitat for pollenator species like butterflies, and reduce nutrient pollution and flash flooding in Kiefer Creek.
  • Work with residents to find ways to improve septic sytem performance and maintainance.
  • Coordinate opportunities to keep horse waste out of the stream channel.
  • Educate and encourage the proper management of pet waste.

Watershed Municipalities

The Kiefer Creek Watershed overlays the municipalities of Ballwin, Ellisville, Wildwood, as well as unincorporated St. Louis County. Each community has its own perspective, and will be approached about ways to improve watershed stewardship. Municipal governments play an important role in a watershed in that they regulate zoning and development patters, manage road salt application and public parks, and they set out landscape guidelines for new developments. Through engagement with local municipalities we hope to:

  • Reduce chloride impacts in Kiefer Creek by encouraging municipalities to switch to a brine (liquified salt) system. Although there is the upfront cost of the brine truck(s), many communities have done this and found that the savings from the reduced amount of salt used paid for the truck within a few years.
  • Encourage municipalities and the county to require that, upon the time of sale, all properties that are not connected to MSD be inspected for effectiveness of on-site treatment. If an issue is found the cost of the repair, replacement or lateral connection to an available sewer main will be included in the sale price of the home.  
  • Work with municipalities to develop landscape guidance that fosters native ecosystems while reducine maintenance costs and waters useage. 


Kiefer Creek Newsletter

 sunner12         Spring2012


Kiefer Creek Watershed Planning Meetings

Upcoming Meeting - April 22, 2014 : 6pm - 8pm

Powder Valley Nature Center

This website and other efforts related to the Kiefer Creek Restoration Project are partially funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. MoDNR Subgrant G11-NPS-21.

If you are from the St. Louis area, or if you have spent much time here, then there is a good chance that you have spent some time in the Kiefer Creek Watershed. This small watershed sits on the fringe of the urban sprawl blossoming out into western St. Louis County. 

Kiefer map lidar complete 

On the northern end of the watershed, Manchester Road forms a thick belt of asphalt and commercial development, the middle of the watershed is home to around 4000 families, a city park and a conservation area, and the lower watershed is dominated by Castlewood State Park with adjacent historic developments dating back to the per-World War II Era and even some very interesting ruins... -Castle-wood indeed!

IMG 0647

IMG 0642IMG 0641 
This area is host to a diverse ecosystem, especially by comparison to much of the rest of our meto area, including beavers which have built a number of wetlands along the course of the stream in just the past few years that we have been studying the watershed. 

 Kiefer BeaverDam

Kiefer Creek flows through the heart of Castlewood State Park, a natural recreation resource cherished by the St. Louis community for over 100 years. With over 500,000 visitors per year, of these we estimate that thousands play and swim in the creek every year. The cool clear waters are very inviting on a hot summer day. Since we started this project we have hosted monthly hikes every second Saturday of the month and on these hikes we have observed an extraordinary range of wildlife, flora & fauna, water quality & flood conditions, and people from around the region enjoying this area.  

 BigSnakeSkin NovemberHike IMG 0603 kids playing in kiefer creek kiefer rope swng

Kiefer Creek is a tributary to the Meramec River, one of the most biologically diverse, free-flowing, and healthy rivers in any urban area in the United States. In the 1970’s, after a hard fought battle with the federal government, Missourians staunchly rejected proposals to dam this natural wonder. The area around the confluence of Kiefer Creek and the Meramec is a serene, forested place, marking the transition from the part of the lower meramec dominated by development-to the area where conservation efforts have preserved huge amounts of greenspace thanks to decades of diligent efforts bythe Open Space Council, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, St. Louis County and Washington University to name a few. 

DecemberKiefer CreekHikePic2

OSC81Regional Grnspc

Roger Pryor, Open Space Council - 1981

 Kiefer Creek is one of the last tributaries to the lower Meramec that retains its natural beauty and a relatively undeveloped watershed.The creek’s natural beauty is an asset to the community. The people in the watershed are clearly proud of their creek – many of the neighborhoods, roads and businesses in the area are named after Kiefer Creek. Unlike their neighbors in nearby watersheds, the people in the Kiefer Creek community can boast about their creek’s natural flowing water, as well as the beauty of their forested and hilly watershed. When travelling through the Kiefer Creek watershed, you get the impression you’re no longer in the suburban sprawl of St. Louis County - the trees, steeply sloped hillsides and clear flowing water transport you back in time. Even in the parts of the watershed with significant suburban development, the residents have stunning views of the beautiful landscape, thanks to the dramatic topography of the area..

OctoberKiefer HikePic

Unfortunately, Kiefer Creek exhibits high levels of bacteria after rainfall. In testing by the USGS between 1996 and 2004, bacteria levels exceeded safe levels for recreation, especially after increased flows from rainfall in the watershed. It also gets so overloaded with salt in the winter that it is incapable of supporting the natural diversity of aquatic life that it could otherwise. Because of this situation, we decided to undertake writing a Watershed Plan to come up with ways to reduce the degrading impacts of bacteria and chloride, which come from non-point sources, unlike more regulated pollution from pollution outfall pipes. Please check out the other pages on this site to learn more about our planning process, events, and the watershed. 


"Geographic information system (GIS) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographic data...In the simplest terms, GIS is the merging of catography, statistical analysis, and database technology."


One of the most interesting tools that we are implementing to better understand the watershed and come up with insightful solutions to the water quality issues in Kiefer Creek is GIS technology. This is a screenshot from our Kiefer Creek Geodatabase, a geodatabase can be loaded with a very broad range of geospatial data. 

GIS arcscreenshot

Since we started this project a few years ago, we have been collecting a wide range of GIS data from the Kiefer Creek Watershed. Geospatial data comes in many shapes and forms, like features drawn with lines and polygons or specific locations marked with points. These features can be connected to a spreadsheet of data on each specific feature, or in the case of Google Earth, the data is embedded in code associated with each feature. 

gogle earth

Point, line, and polygon data is broadly known as vector data, in the Kiefer Creek Geodatabase this includes the delineation of the stream channel, location of springs, parcel boundaries, the watershed boundary, storm sewers, building footprints, land use and so on. The other primary form of data used in our geodatabase is known as raster data, and it is composed of a grid of pixels with values assigned to each pixel. Most poeple have become familiar with the aerial imagery found in most online mapping tools, this is raster imagery that has been projected onto a globe or flattened surface.

The location of data is recorded in longitude and latitude typically, providing accurate geographic positioning of vector features and raster datasets, however GIS software is also designed to handle three dimensional data. This allows us to create a raster where each pixel is assigned an elevation value, creating a surface model of the terrain, this is often referred to as a DEM, or Digital Elevation Model.   

Kiefer LiDAR

Many forms of data can be moved back and forth between vector and raster form, however there is usually one format that works better for the data you are working with. Recently we have begun to use a newly available data called LiDAR data, which stand for Light Detection and Ranging. LiDAR data is collected using lasers projected from airplanes, the place where the laser incounters something the range is determined as well as the color of the surface encountered. This information is associated with each point, and can be viewed in a GIS program like ArcGIS.

LiDAR image

This data can be viewed as a cloud of points, also known as a point cloud, which is a three dimensional representation of all of the points collected in a LiDAR survey. These point clouds can be used to create raster surfaces representing the ground, or the height of the vegetative cover above the ground surface...       

tree cover


dnr logo

This website and other efforts related to the Kiefer Creek Restoration Project are partially funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. MoDNR Subgrant G11-NPS-21.

Healthy Development

Kiefer Creek remains one of the healthiest creeks in the area due to the large amounts of natural areas in the watershed. But development is not only inevitable, in many cases it is desired by the community. But it is vital that we protect the natural ecology of the area as much as possible. Fortunately, there is a well-researched and commonly implemented practice called Low-Impact Development (LID) that can do just that. LID provides benefits for the developers, the landowners, and the community alike. LID integrates environmental sustainability into community development plans in a feasible manner. These practices ultimately produce economic, ecological, and aesthetic benefits for the community.

Better Management Practices (BMPs) are systems that can help a developer achieve reducions in stormwater pollution, runoff, and energy usage. The most popular BMPs for pollution and runoff reductions include bioretention basins, water quality swales, permeable paving, tree box filters and planter boxes, cisterns and rain barrels, and green roof gardens.

A large business, such as the proposed Walmart in Ellisville, could use these BMPs to improve visual landscaping and enhance site water quality. This would not only reduce infrastructure costs for the store, but it would also create an open, green campus for the community and foster a positive “green” image in the watershed community.

The Ellisville Walmart

Our project has been promoting low impact development to the Walmart developers and the Ellisville City Planning Department. After careful review of all of the proposed site plans, we proposed specific best management practices that would reduce the stormwater and pollution from the Walmart, and even potentially create an improvement to water quality from the previous use of the site: primarily a paved, unused lot.

The developers have incorporated some of these BMPs into their plans, including bioretention ponds and using native plants in their landscaping. We are continuing to work with the city and the developers to ensure that the development does not have a negative effect on the water quality of Kiefer Creek.

Case Studies on LID

Communities and researchers across the country have conducted numerous case studies on LID.  In Atlanta, for example, the Trust for Public Land noted that the LID practice of increasing forestry and tree cover has “saved more than $883 million by preventing the need for stormwater retention facilities.”

In addition to community projects, many researchers and developers are beginning to examine the impact of LID on “Big Box” retailers.  The EPA studied three LID plans used by Target, a company similar in structure and function as Wal-Mart.  The results show that LID had a positive impact on development.  Green roofs decreased run-off volume by as much as 17%; and the combination of green roofs, bioretention, and permeable surfaces decreased volume by 23% for a 2-year, 24-hour storm.

Similarly, Costco, another large-scale developer, experienced the benefits of LID first hand.  At one store in Wilmington, North Carolina, Costco developers experimenting with porous concrete pavement (an LID strategy) reported “exceptionally well” performance.


The research and case studies indicate that Low Impact Development can significantly improve store development and maintenance down the road.  As one report notes, however, it is difficult to measure the economic benefits of LID.  For example, it is much harder to calculate the economic benefits of reducing run-off volume than it is to determine the cost of pavement for a parking lot.  Nevertheless, as research on the LID grows, it will be possible to better monetize its benefits.


dnr logo

This website and other efforts related to the Kiefer Creek Restoration Project are partially funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. MoDNR Subgrant G11-NPS-21.

Salt in a freshwater stream

Chloride (salt), is a problem in many freshwater streams in areas where the winters include snow and ice.  To keep our roads and sidewalks safe for walking and driving we use salt to melt the snow and ice. Unfortunately many of the creatures that call the creek home are not able to survive when their freshwater stream is inundated with salty runoff after winter storms. This problem is also connected to the amount of development in a watershed, as more roads, parking lots and sidewalks are built we must aplly more salt to keep these surfaces clear during winter weather. This is, at first gance, a hard problem to address because it is imperative that roads and sidewalks are safe for people in cars and on foot. 

That said, we have been investigating best management practices that can be implemented to ensure that the application of salt in the watershed is judicious and takes advantage of advanced solutions to this issue. Here are some of the approaches that we are currently researching: 

  • Promoting more shoveling for hire as a good micro-economy for the unemployed or underemployed people that live in the watershed
  • Encourage poeple to collect the left over salt off of their driveways and sidewalks before it washes into the creek. They can reuse this and save a little money and reduce the amount of trips to buy more salt. 
  • Work with salt trucks to ensure that equipment is properly calibrated and appropriate best management practices, such as turning off the flow of salt at stops, are being observed.
  • Sometimes salt is stored in a pile that is exposed to the weather, this allows for a highly concentrated flow of salt to find its way into a storm drain and from there into Kiefer Creek. We will be on the lookout for opportunities to help watershed stakeholders implement sound salt storage practices.  
  • Brine systems that apply liquid salt prior to the weather event, preventing the precipitation from freezing to the road surface. This may require subsequent plowing and additional salt application depending on the severity of the storm. However it has been reported that this system has been a cost savings for local municipalities that have invested in this upgrade.

It is also important to think about how the salt gets from the paved surface into Kiefer Creek. Often times the path that runoff takes carries it through a number of channels and even water bodies like detention ponds, before it finally makes its way into Kiefer Creek. Sometimes the stormwater pipe connects directly to the creek. It may be possible to better understand the course of these drainage patterns in terms of their ability to mitigate the intensity of the salt pulse.

Where the connection is a fairly direct linkage of a large impervious surface to the stream channel it may be worthwhile to consider the integration of permeable pavers and a buffered channel to provide more infiltration and mitigation of the saltwater pulse. In an area where a subdivision drains into a paved surface drainage channel there may be the opportunity to reconstitute these riparian corridors to provide increased infiltration. Many of the solutions that are good for the watershed in general are also beneficial to recuding the impacts from chloride on Kiefer Creek. 


dnr logo

This website and other efforts related to the Kiefer Creek Restoration Project are partially funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. MoDNR Subgrant G11-NPS-21.

“One Sick Puppy”

Kiefer Creek was first brought to the attention of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment by Steve Seyer. In the summer of 2009, Steve went on jogs with his dog, Dolphus, in the watershed, and after his runs he let Dolphus cool down in Kiefer Creek. Dolphus started to develop some troubling health problems: lumps on his back, black discharge from his eyes, and diarrhea, all of which are symptoms of overexposure to bacteria. After Steve stopped letting Dolphus go into the creek, Dolphus’ health problems cleared up.

Seyer had seen a USGS water quality monitoring station just upstream of Castlewood Park, so, curious about the creek, he found the data on the internet. He saw that the bacteria levels in the creek were regularly much higher than the levels deemed safe for swimming according to the EPA. This data ended in 2003, but there was other testing being done downstream by the Missouri Sewer District.

Bacteria and Date

Thanks to the efforts of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, this data was made public, and it showed that Kiefer Creek still has significant bacteria contamination. With the evidence presented by this testing data, Kiefer Creek was placed on the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters for exceeding the safe level of bacteria for recreational use.

It is likely that the bacteria contamination is from a number of non-point sources in the watershed. The Kiefer Creek watershed has septic systems, horses, lots of wildlife and domesticated pets, as well as an increasing area of impervious surfaces that could be delivering significant bacteria loads directly to the creek without sufficient natural filtration. 

Water quality is directly connected to the composition of the watershed. In the Kiefer Creek Watershed bacteria and chloride are delivered from the watershed area into the stream by storm water runoff. Because of this connection is it very important to study water quality in terms of watershed composition, non-point source loading, and storm water runoff. To do this we have begun studying the correlation between rainfall, flow, and bacteria levels using available data from the USGS, MDNR, and MSD. 

Bacteria and flow


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Castlewood Village: A Vacation Destination for St. Louis

In the early 20th century, clubs and vacation homes were developed along the Meramec River. The Missouri Pacific Railroad brought hot city dwellers to cool down in the river, and Castlewood Village kept them entertained with hotels, clubs, bathhouses and more. Much of the development occurred over the limestone bluffs north of the Meramec and the railroad tracks. The seclusion of these bluffs attracted visitors, and during prohibition there was a robust drinking and gambling culture away from the eyes of the authorities. Mobsters even used the area as a hide-out when they needed to drop off the map.

In the 1950s, the clubs and hotels began to shut down. As the cost of cars and air conditioning decreased,  fewer people took the train to Castlewood to escape the city’s heat. Family homes replaced the vacation culture, but the area remained relatively secluded. In the 1970s, the expanding St. Louis suburbs began to encroach upon the Kiefer Creek watershed. Unlike its neighbors, however, the Kiefer Creek watershed largely retained its natural landscape and avoided the extensive development that has blanketed the neighboring Fishpot Creek Wateshed.


In order to ensure that this beautiful area was not destroyed by the rapidly encroaching suburbs, the Open Space Council of St. Louis helped the state acquire some of the land in 1974, and they created Castlewood State Park.

The Road to Development

Year BuiltBy 1990, as the map to the left shows, neighboring watersheds were quite developed, while the Kiefer Creek watershed remained largely untouched. The watershed retained a large amount of its tree cover and natural spaces. This has made Kiefer Creek what it is today: a beautiful stream that attracts people with its pools and clear, flowing water.

Since 1990, there has been a fair amount of expansion into the watershed, primarily in the northern part of the watershed. The southeast section of the watershed still looks much like it did in 1990.

Superfund Site

Most everyone has heard of Times Beach, the town 17 miles west of St. Louis that was abandoned and disincorporated in 1983 because of dioxin contamination. Less well known are the other sites in the area that were also contaminated at the same time, one of which is located in the Kiefer Creek watershed, just west of Castlewood Park at Sontag Rd. and New Ballwin Rd.


The contamination occurred in 1972 when Russell Bliss, a waste oil hauler, was contracted to spray waste oil on gravel roads to reduce dust. Ten years later, the EPA discovered that the oil was contaminated with dioxins. Bliss acquired the oil from the Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company (NEPACCO), which had produced it while making hexachlorophene, a disinfectant for a face wash. During the investigation, Bliss said he was not informed that the waste oil had dioxins in it.  However,  NEPACCO claimed he was informed, as they were legally required to tell him, and they paid him to haul it away, a practice only done with hazardous materials.

In 1983, the EPA began to clean up the site under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, known more commonly as "Superfund." They temporarily relocated the residents, then removed the first few inches of soil and stored it in containment bins on Sontag Rd. At the time there was no appropriate technology to dispose of the dioxins, so the soil remained there for 13 years. In 1996, the soil was brought to Times Beach and incinerated with the contaminated soil from the other sites. They tested the area for remaining contamination and found that it had been thoroughly removed. That said, there is a marked lack of new development in areas that were part of the Dioxin cleanup. In a way this may have protected some of the most fragile riparian and forested areas from the impacts of impervious surfaces from developments. Kiefer Creek is spring fed and it flows every day of the year because the natural flora, fauna, and geology still function. The rainfall is absorbed into the ground where it joins an aquifer that feeds numerous springs in the watershed.  

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This website and other efforts related to the Kiefer Creek Restoration Project are partially funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. MoDNR Subgrant G11-NPS-21.


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