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The intent of Amendment 9 is good. But there’s been too little discussion about the potential consequences. The subject needs to be more thoroughly explored by the courts and in legislative debate before it is enshrined in the Missouri constitution.


Springfield News-Leader, June 22

Protect creek and economy:

The image of 100,000 dead fish floating along a 4.5-mile stretch of Clear Creek is difficult to conjure up, but the reality of that fish kill is a reminder that chemicals being used by industries around the state and the country have the potential to kill fish and much more.

The fish kill in the creek between Monett and Pierce City was the result of a chemical leak at a Tyson feed plant in Aurora in May.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced that his office has filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods in connection with that leak. The six-count suit seeks penalties and damages, as well as reimbursement for the cost of investigating the incident - likely to reach beyond $200,000.

Tyson Foods employs about 700 people in a county of about 36,000 residents and a 6.1 percent unemployment rate. Last year, Tyson’s payroll there topped $21 million.

Tyson Foods is not just an important employer in Barry County. Across the state, it employs a total of 4,700, with a $146.4 million annual payroll, and works with more than 500 local meat and poultry suppliers and growers. We appreciate the role Tyson plays in keeping our economy viable and in feeding our population.

We don’t want laws to interfere with that role, but we are not willing to sacrifice the lives of fish or the health of our environment and population for the sake of an industry’s profits. Environmental laws must be reasonable and realistic, while still being able to address the realities of an ever-evolving industry.

The Clear Creek situation is a reminder that both state and federal laws are an important resource in keeping toxic chemicals out of our waterways and drinking sources.

In the case of the Clear Creek fish kill, the Department of Natural Resources released an investigative report that traced the incident back to a chemical leak at the Aurora plant. Alimet, an ammonia-based chemical, was leaking into one of the company’s containment ponds. The company, according to its own protocol, took the water to the Monett wastewater treatment facility to be “properly treated.”

Instead, the driver of one of the trucks containing the water and Alimet told the pretreatment operator that the truck was filled with animal fat. By the time everyone noticed that it wasn’t animal fat, too much of the chemical had been dumped for the treatment facility to handle.

The “treated” water was then released into Clear Creek where the ammonia was able to kill every fish in the creek - along with pretty much everything else.

Pollution from the Monett wastewater treatment facility is nothing new. DNR has been monitoring the plant for more than a decade, citing the facility as the only source of pollution in the otherwise aptly named Clear Creek. Ammonia has been among the pollutants cited, and local “food processing industries” have been named as the main culprit.

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