Swimming the River des Peres: Daredevil Affects EPA Policy on St. Louis River

Last month, the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a ruling calling on hundreds of waterways in Missouri to conform to federal Clean Water Act standards, making them safe for swimming and recreation.

One of those water bodies — the River des Peres — struck us as particularly unusual. Most St. Louisans tend to think of the River des Peres as something of an open sewer. And, to some degree, they're right, especially during periods of heavy rain, when sewage can mix in with storm water flowing into the river.

That said, does anyone really swim in the River Des Peres?

"Yes," says John DeLashmit, water-quality manager for Region 7 of the EPA, which includes Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.

"We had a public comment session on the river, and people told us that they've observed people jumping off a trestle and into the water during floods," DeLashmit says. "Then someone else pointed out a YouTube video of a man with a mohawk — who some might call a 'brave young' and other might call something else — swimming in the River des Peres. So right there we had frank evidence that people do, on occasion, swim in the river."

In its report on water quality in Missouri, the EPA linked to a video of a guy named Chris Kline swimming the river. We've posted it on our website for your viewing pleasure. (We particularly like how Kline has a Heineken in hand before his plunge. We imagine that such a feat requires a bit of liquid courage.)

Prior to the EPA ruling on the River des Peres last month, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources had claimed that the waterway was safe for boating and other recreation that doesn't include a person being fully submerged in the water. The EPA disagreed, arguing that the lower half of the river (roughly from Gravois Avenue to the Mississippi River) should be made clean enough for swimming.

DeLashmit tells Daily RFT that just because people perceive a waterway as too polluted for swimming doesn't mean the EPA will accept that principle.

"When you look back at it, this is the kind situation that prompted the Clean Water Act," says DeLashmit. "Back before that legislation, a lot of people thought Lake Erie was too polluted for recreation."

The EPA plans to work with the Missouri DNR to help reach the clean water goals.

 
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9 comments
susieque2
susieque2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... The River des Pere is a natural river, or it was. About 100 years ago, the city of St. Louis decided that it would be a cheap way to go to just use it for a sanitary sewer instead of building something. The city also has that ridiculous thing where gutters run into drain lines that run rain water and sanitary waste together. Funny name, that. This waste is anything BUT sanitary.I read somewhere else once that the EPA was asked to approve a waste disposal of ammonia from a factory pipeline, untreated, directly into the River des Peres. It passed. They said, what the heck, it's the River des Pere, which is one of the nastiest rivers in the country. They approved it. The river runs under Forest Park in pipes because it had become a gross disgusting embarassment about the time that the city was getting ready to host the World's Fair in 1904. They didn't fix it, just hid it.

Jimi S
Jimi S

This just makes me mad. You would have to be a complete twit(looking at you Dan Tihen) to this that "River" is meant for anything but dealing with rain water. It isn't a recreational space, if the EPA wants it to be then they can pay for the safety measures that would have to go in place to make it such. It's a lined trench built by the WPA who were hardly engineers. We don't know why sewage leaks into it and we really don't care, it's been that way for close to a century. Speaking of which, where the heck have the core of engineers been this whole time, haven't they noticed the lack of true design? Also do you suppose this conversation would be moot if we had public swimming pools that weren't in the middle of the ghetto?

MsMo
MsMo

Seriously, swimming in RDP? No Way, no how. The thought is, to me, highly toxic...I think ppl might think twice if they saw the freaky tunnelway near Maplewood, near the Frisco tracks.

Dan Tihen
Dan Tihen

I've been forced out of River Des Pewes while canoeing during Mississippi River flooding, by an MSD guy. Guess that's another example of "I've been thrown out of better bars than this"

Jimi S
Jimi S

I thought better of calling you a twit Dan, I apologize. But really what are you doing with a canoe in the RDP when there are so many great waterways throughout the state?

 
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