USGS Releases Study on Dead Zone Pollutants

Special thanks to Susan Heathcote with Iowa Environmental Council for this Summary.


An interesting report was released yesterday by the US Geological Survey about the long-term trends in nitrate levels in the Mississippi River and major tributaries.  The study looked at nitrate trends over the period 2000 – 2010.

Overall nitrate concentrations increased 12% at the outlet of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.  There is some good news and bad news here.  The nitrate concentration trends shows a decrease in both the Illinois River (21%) and Iowa River (10%).  These decreases were offset by large increases in the upper Mississippi above Clinton, Iowa (29%) and the Missouri River (43%).  The nitrate concentrations in the Ohio River are the lowest of the major tributaries and have remained relatively constant over the past 30 years. 

Also interesting is that USGS found that nitrate increased at low stream flows throughout the basin, except for the Ohio and Illinois Rivers.  The report suggests that increases during low flow are likely dominated by point sources from wastewater treatment plants and groundwater recharge of legacy nitrate from past practices on the land that may take years to move through the subsurface to the Mississippi River.  Because of the lag time for groundwater recharge, it might take many years to see water quality improvements in the Mississippi River and Gulf.

See press release

The full report is available online at


Veolia Withdraws: Victory!


Tuesday, October 28, at the Ways and Means Committee Hearing on Board Bill 216 at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, Mary Ellen Ponder, St. Louis Mayor Slay's representative, announced that Veolia Water North America was withdrawing from its efforts to secure a contract with the city's Water Division.

The welcome news stunned members of the St. Louis Dump Veolia Coalition who had organized to block the contract because of the company's environmental, ethics and human rights record.

St. Louis Dump Veolia's Statement:



Multinational Withdraws from Contract Bidding Following 11 Months of City-Wide Opposition


(October 29, 2013; St. Louis, Missouri, USA) The mayor’s office has announced that Veolia Water North America has withdrawn itself from consideration for a contract to consult with the St. Louis Water Division, following almost a year of public protest of the corporation over its egregious track record of contract failures, poor performance, environmental destruction, labor abuses, complicity in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, and privatization of public resources. Veolia reportedly decided St. Louis “is not worth it. It is not worth the damage to [Veolia’s] business.”


St. Louis proudly joins cities across the globe that have stood up to Veolia and similar transnational corporations in an effort to protect public resources, open government, and people’s rights.


For more than three years, Veolia attempted to secure a contract with St. Louis, defying the will of the local community through aggressive lobbying, bullying, political interference, back-door deals, and outright contempt for democratic involvement. When public opposition denied Veolia the necessary votes to pass the contract through normal channels, the mayor attempted to circumvent the democratic checks and balances by claiming the contract did not need approval through traditional means and threatened to sue the city comptroller if she did not sign it.


The St. Louis Dump Veolia Coalition applauds the St. Louis Board of Aldermen for listening to constituents’ concerns and standing up for transparency, accountability, democratic processes, and the will of the people by introducing a resolution to remove funds allocated for Veolia in the city’s budget, the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, prompting Veolia to withdraw.


As the city now looks to work with the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District in a public partnership, we urge all involved to continue to reject any involvement of Veolia, to keep St. Louis water firmly in public hands, and to listen to and respect the wisdom and expertise of our water workers who first revealed the Veolia contract.


The Dump Veolia Coalition thanks the hundreds of St. Louisans who contributed to this campaign -- from elevating it to a primary issue in the 2013 mayoral elections to testifying at City Hall for the Public Utilities Committee -- and our public officials who stood up for democracy and public water. We are inspired by the unnamed millions around the world -- including workers, students, faith communities, activists, oppressed communities throughout the U.S., and the people of Palestine -- working tirelessly against corporate profiteering and greed, environmental devastation, racism and discrimination. This victory belongs to all of us.


St. Louis is proud to have kept our water public and our consciences clear by dumping Veolia!


St. Louis Dump Veolia Coalition

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For a timeline of campaign events, click here.

For a list of media coverage: click here.

Facebook page: join here.

Zombie Veolia Contract Rises Again

Wednesday, October 16, St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green exposed St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's attempt to secure an open-ended, no-bid contract worth millions of dollars for Veolia, a French multi-national corporation with operations in water, sewage, hazaroud waste and garbage.

At the meeting, Ms. Green brought to light a proposed contract that Slay is seeking to push through without a vote of the members of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (E&A). Normally, contracts like the one proposed for Veolia North America, require the approval of the Board of E&A. City Attorney Patty Hageman sent Green a memo, dated October 4th, that says the contract did not need legal approval of the Board of E&A. And the memo threatens a lawsuit if Green refuses to sign the Veolia contract.

Read the story here.

Learn more here.

Pork & Blame: Omstead Dam Boondoggle

MCE's Big Rivers Director critiques the Corps of Engineers over due and over budget Olmstead dam project on the Ohio River- and distributes the blame to the barge industry for its dependence on taxpayer subsidies and unwillingness to pay its way.

See the letter here.

Lawsuit Seeking Army Corps of Engineers Wetlands Records

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit September 23, 2013 on behalf of MCE against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its failure to release documents relating to wetlands in the Mississippi River Basin. MCE seeks to improve government accountability and transparency- both goals are thwarted by the Corps' refusal to release critical documents. See the news release here.

Read the complaint here.


MCE Sues Army Corps of Engineers for Enbridge records

August 19, 2013


Read the complaint

Read more about what this pipeline means for Missouri

On behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed suit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 16, 2013, against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the Corps’ failure to release any information on the proposed Flanagan South pipeline which will carry diluted bitumen, or “dilbit,” across the entire state of Missouri.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment (“MCE”) is opposed to the pipeline because it threatens the safety and quality of Missouri’s waters. The Flanagan South is one segment of a pipeline project by the Canadian company Enbridge to carry dilbit from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast for refining and export. Dilbit is bitumen, an asphalt-like substance from the Alberta tar sands, which is diluted with chemicals to enable it to flow through a pipeline. It is not oil but is abrasive of pipelines and harder to clean up when it spills because it is thick, tarry, and sinks in water. A major spill from an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan in 2010 in the Kalamazoo River has still not been fully cleaned up. More recently there was a dilbit spill from an ExxonMobil pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, which contaminated a neighborhood.

MCE filed a request for documents from the Corps under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) in January. The Corps has released nothing. “It took them five months even to give us an excuse,” said Henry Robertson, Great Rivers’ attorney for MCE. “I have to wonder why the Corps is helping Enbridge keep this thing secret, making it impossible for people to know about a pipeline that may spill this stuff in their backyards.” Last week Enbridge started construction after three of the four Corps districts involved gave the go-ahead.

“If the Corps had nothing to hide about the project it would have released the documents back in January,” said Heather Navarro, Executive Director of MCE. “Missourians will be the ones responding to an emergency; we will be the ones whose property is contaminated if there’s a rupture. We have a right to know about a risky project of this size.”

For more information see here.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) state-level conservation organization, is a force for clean air, clean water and clean energy in Missouri. Since 1969 it has educated and activated Missourians to protect the land we all love. Its web address is:

Great Rivers is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm in St. Louis that provides free and reduced-fee legal services to those working to protect the environment and public health. Its web address is:

MCE Defends Interests of 66% of Missouri Voters

August 19, 2013


            Today, attorneys for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed suit against four Missouri governmental entities, alleging they all played a role in thwarting the proper implementation of the state’s Renewable Energy Standard law, passed by voters in the 2008 election as Proposition C. The suit was filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

            The renewable energy law requires the state’s investor-owned utilities, including Ameren Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light, and Empire District Electric Company, to ramp up their use of renewable energy to at least 15% of the power they sell to their Missouri customers by 2021. Plaintiffs in the suit contend that Missouri’s Secretary of State failed to publish key provisions of the regulation, leaving it unclear whether utilities are actually required to build new renewable energy generation, or whether they can comply instead by buying pieces of paper called “renewable energy credits” from solar and wind projects in faraway places like California or Canada.

            “It’s a critical issue because if utilities aren’t required to deliver renewable energy to Missouri, the law is largely meaningless. Missouri isn’t getting new jobs or the new renewable energy that should be built here,” said Vaughn Prost of Missouri Solar Applications, a solar installation company in Jefferson City and one of the Plaintiffs in the suit. “These policies are working in 28 other states, and there’s no reason it can’t work well in Missouri too.”


Read more: MCE Defends...

Polluter Seeking Override of Governor's Veto

This summer, Governor Jay Nixon vetoed HB 650, an omnibus bill which contained an attempt by special interests to do big favors to one of our biggest polluters, Doe Run. HB 650 would have capped punitive or exemplary damages to claims from Doe Run, operator of the nation’s largest lead smelter and lead mining/milling operations in Missouri. An nearly identical bill, House Bill 28, passed and omitted this toxic threat.

Now Doe Run is pressing lawmakers to override the Governor's veto.

An override of HB650 would weaken Missourians rights to defend their health and their property. To take action, call your lawmakers and urge them to reject Doe Run's request.

2013 General Assembly Review

In 2capitolsm013, more than 80 Senate Bills and 80 House Bills reached the governor’s desk, many of which were “truly agreed to and finally passed” the final week of session.

 When the dust cleared, a few special interests wheedled some erosive measures into our state environmental laws while conservationists successfully fended off the most aggressive attacks. 

 On the Omnibus

 Again this year, many environmental provisions were rolled into what is known as an “omnibus” bill. With ten minutes left in the session, lawmakers passed the Dept. of Natural Resources omnibus bill that contained language that originated in House Bill 650 and House Bill 28.The Governor will have both bills on his desk.

 Governor Nixon vetoed HB 650 (see here), however, Doe Run is now pressing lawmakers to override the veto. Contact your lawmakers and ask them to reject Doe Run's request for an override. Don't override Missourians' rights! See the news here.

HB 650 contains an attempt by special interests to do big favors for one of our biggest polluters, Doe Run. HB 650 would cap punitive or exemplary damages to claims from Doe Run, operator of the nation’s largest lead smelter and lead mining/ milling operations in Missouri. House bill 28 passed and omitted this toxic treat. However, its twin, HB 650, contains the Doe Run language and we want to maintain the veto on HB650.

Governor Jay Nixon vetoed HB 650 and signed HB28.

See our review of the Omnibus bills and other legislative issues here. Highlights/lowlights include:

  • provisions weakening factory farm oversight,
  • long-awaited action on pollution permit fees for the Dept. of Natural Resources,
  • changes to Missouri's environmental commissions,
  • solid waste districts,
  • and more.

Your action and support made it possible to hold back this year’s attacks. We promise to stay informed on what is going on during the next legislative session and notify you via email on ways you can take action. If you aren’t already on our email action list, sign up here. Stay tuned!

Besides the Omnibus issues, we were watching bills on urban agriculture and energy.

Read more: 2013 General...

Smarter Farming Can End the Gulf Dead Zone

Semi-Final Bottom Dissolved Oxygen Map2013

 (St. Louis) – A larger than average “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is our summer reminder that nitrogen and phosphorus pollution remain one of our nation’s greatest water quality challenges.

 See the map (also above):

The Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone is an area where oxygen levels in the water are too low to support marine life. This year it measures more than 5,800 square miles.

Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution fuel the excessive growth of algae which dies and decomposes, sucking the oxygen from the water. Ocean animals flee the Dead Zone – or die if they cannot escape it. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution have many sources, including farm fertilizers, wastewater treatment plants and some industries. The Mississippi River delivers the pollution to the Gulf. The largest contributor to the Gulf Dead Zone pollution is agriculture.

Missouri has ranked among the top five states for contributing these Dead Zone pollutants to the Gulf.

 “Missouri farmers have no interest in destroying Gulf fisheries, at least not on purpose,” said Kathleen Logan Smith, Policy Director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “However, we still have farmers whose decisions are solely based on profit and yield with little respect for soil and water quality. Because good farm stewardship can deliver profitable crops, fertile soil into the future and clean water today, it’s time all our farmers commit to doing what works.”


Read more: Smarter Farming...

Login Form