KCUR News
11:59 am
Wed January 6, 2010

Former Official Says Public Not in Danger from High E. coli Levels

Jefferson City, MO – The former state Department of Natural Resources official who took the blame for delaying the release last year of E. coli test results from the Lake of the Ozarks defended his actions before a Missouri Senate committee.

Joe Benbeutel, a long-time aid to Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, lost his appointment to be an administrative law judge over his one-month delaying of the report showing E. coli levels from late May exceeded federal guidelines. But he told the State Senate committee that oversees environmental issues that he wanted to develop an improvement plan before releasing the results, and that the public was never in any danger.

Joe Benbeutel: "These bugs die very very quickly to suggest that there was high E. coli results, that even a week later that those numbers accurately reflect the condition of the water in the Lake of the Ozarks, is simply facetious."

But the Republican chair of the committee, Brad Lager, disagrees, saying the DNR risked the health of the public and has refused to cooperate with his inquiry into the delayed report.

Brad Lager: "The Department of Natural Resources withheld important information about incredibly high levels of E-coli in the Lake, and in doing so, they still put the public health and safety at risk, and they violated the trust of the citizens and the visitors of this state."

Lager also accuses DNR officials of not cooperating with his committee's inquiry into the delayed release of the E. coli test results.