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Water: Regulatory Information

Water Quality Standards Determination for Portion of the Mississippi River around St. Louis

Fact sheet; October 2009


EPA is determining that Missouri needs new or revised recreation designated uses, i.e. whole body contact recreation, for a 28.6-mile portion of an existing 190.5-mile segment of the Mississippi River that flows from Dam 27 to the confluence with the Ohio River. The determination addresses the portion of the River around St. Louis, which flows from North Riverfront Park to the confluence with the Meramec River.


In October of 2003, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) sued EPA for not promulgating new or revised water quality standards for Missouri. MCE maintained that there were many waters in Missouri that did not have proper water quality standards and they believed that EPA needed to take action to get the right water quality standards in place. In 2004, EPA entered into a settlement agreement with MCE that provided for EPA to make Clean Water Act (CWA) Determinations regarding the water quality standards for these waters. Waters that are designated for whole body contact recreation must meet more stringent criteria for bacteria. EPA has completed Determinations as agreed to in the settlement agreement except for a 28.6-mile segment of the Mississippi River that runs through St. Louis. The completed Determinations made for the Mississippi River include a decision that approximately 1 mile upstream and approximately 161 miles downstream of St. Louis should be whole body contact recreation. EPA commends Missouri for finalizing a rulemaking to adopt a whole body contact recreation use in accordance with that determination. The current Settlement Agreement deadline to make a determination on the 28.6-mile segment in and around St. Louis is October 30, 2009.

New or revised standards are necessary because the majority of this 28.6-mile segment has shoreline features that include public parks, boat ramps, bike trails and some sandy areas with gentle sloping banks and the available information does not demonstrate that water quality necessary to support a whole body contact recreation use is not attainable in this segment. Moreover, EPA’s regulations at 40 CFR § 131.10(b) provide that a State “shall ensure that its water quality standards provide for attainment and maintenance of the water quality standards of downstream waters”. Waters of the Mississippi upstream, downstream and across the river in Illinois from this 28.6-mile segment are all designated as primary contact (same as whole body contact) recreational waters and EPA has concluded that the State has not ensured that secondary contact recreational water quality standards on the 28.6-mile segment will “provide for attainment and maintenance of the water quality standards of downstream waters.”

To get more information

For further information on EPA’s determination for water quality standards for a 28.6-mile segment of the Mississippi River around St. Louis, you may call Claudia Fabiano at (202) 566-0446, or send an email to fabiano.claudia@epa.gov.

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