Sheila Harris: Bill may loosen groundwater regulations

Southwest Missouri residents, the quality of our groundwater is under attack.

Please consider showing up for a hearing for Missouri Senate Bill 981 in Jefferson City tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, March 5, at 8:30 a.m.

State Sen. Rusty Black, R-Chillilcothe, who represents the largest senatorial district in the state — 19 counties of rich farmland in northwest Missouri — introduced legislation (SB981) to exclude most of Missouri’s groundwater from the definition of “Waters of the State.” 

The change in definition will remove underground aquifers from DNR protection and oversight if it cannot be proven that they connect to surface water features.

In southwest Missouri, the proposed change in legislation will affect the groundwater from which most of our drinking water is drawn, because our unique karst topography allows underground aquifers to run for mile upon mile, with no obvious connections to above-ground water features. 

Case in point, Roaring River Spring — the deepest (measured) spring in Missouri — where dye-tracing tests (which are still in progress) have not yet determined the extent of Roaring River Spring’s recharge basin. 

At last count, to my knowledge, it was about 15 miles out, with testing ongoing beyond that radius.

A public hearing for Black’s bill will be heard before a Senate committee in Jefferson City tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 8:30 a.m. 

If you’ve never shown up for a hearing before, this might be the time.

Consider this bill, plus a couple of others that have been introduced, as a license for big agricultural corporations to pollute our drinking water without repercussions. Lobbyists are behind the bills, with some politicians likely profiting.

I fear that those of us who enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks have been taking the quality of our drinking water for granted for the past 50 years, without paying attention to what’s happening north of us. 

I’ve been guilty myself.

It’s a great irony that only 100 years ago, strides were being made in the U.S. to combat typhoid fever and the like, after the bacteria was discovered to be water-borne. 

Now, with money to be made, the quality of our drinking water seems to be largely irrelevant to some of those in authority over us.

Sheila Harris is a long-time Barry County resident and a sales executive and investigative reporter for the Cassville Democrat with a particular interest in environmental topics. She may be reached at