Pomme de Terre River and Lake

By the MCE staff

The beef processing facility Missouri Prime Beef Packers is proposing to discharge 350,000 gallons per day of their waste directly into the Pomme de Terre River, which flows into Pomme de Terre Lake. This facility is located in Polk County outside Pleasant Hope, Missouri. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is currently evaluating this proposal via an Antidegradation Review.

The formal public comment period on the Antidegradation Review ended on June 26, 2023, and Missouri Coalition for the Environment was able to submit a technical comment on this issue alongside Great Rivers Environmental Law Center with Sierra Club signing on in support of our comment.

Issue Summary

  • This wastewater would contain multiple contaminants, including E. coli, fecal coliform, oil/grease, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potentially chlorine.
  • There is limited public data on the current water quality status of the Pomme de Terre River. The most recent samples in DNR’s public water quality database are dated to 2020 (link). However, we do know that DNR has proposed to the EPA that it be added to the list of Missouri’s impaired waters for E. coli. E. coli is one of the contaminants that this waste would put directly into the river.
  • Missouri Prime Beef Packers began operating at the facility in 2021 and has a history of noncompliance with regulations. Up until now, Missouri Prime Beef Packers have been spreading their waste on land in order to dispose of it. They have been cited by DNR for issues such as their waste running off the land they apply to (link, pg 4). Since April and May of this year, there are two Notices of Violation against Missouri Prime Beef Packers that have not been officially resolved with a return to compliance. The EPA has also found them noncompliant for failing to conduct and report sampling results for their waste. This history of noncompliance is especially concerning in light of the experimental technology the company is proposing to treat their wastewater with. You can see further information about the facility’s violations with this DNR database as well as this EPA website.
  • The proposed wastewater treatment system (iLeaf) would use multiple types of unnamed microorganisms to break down pollutants in the waste water. This treatment system is a new one, reportedly only used at one other facility in the country. Due to the experimental nature of the technology, DNR expressed the need to monitor if this technology is effective during its use at Missouri Prime Beef Packers (link, pg 18). As of right now, there is no proposed contingency plan for addressing every pollutant if the technology were to fail.

This article was adapted by an MCE staff editor from a blog post published on MCE’s website, moenvironment.org.

We have been informed that there will be another public meeting for the citizens of Missouri to express their concerns with this proposal, and we encourage you to stay tuned to our website moenvironment.org and our social media sites @moenvironment to learn more.