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Missouri Environmental Education News
May 2018

Table of Contents: Feature: Water Pollution, Kudos!, Call for Presenters, Things to Look Out for in May, MEEA News, Grants, Contests and Awards, Conferences, Workshops, Jobs, Teaching and Learning Resources

Water Pollution

Missouri 303(d) Map

A 2018 Map of Missouri's 303(d) waters. These are rivers, streams, lakes and ponds, that do not meet their designated uses, whether for drinking water, whole body contact or protection of wildlife.

by: Jan Weaver, MEEA Executive Director

Jan at Asilomar

Water pollution was the top vote getter in our survey of what topics to cover in the monthly newsletter. In this brief introduction, we have narrowed the topic to Missouri surface waters that have unpermitted pollutants. In Teaching and Learning Resources we have ideas for how to teach about water pollution.

Water pollutants are substances in water that impair its ability to meet biological, chemical or physical needs. The 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates the discharge of pollutants from point sources and non-point sources, works to improve wastewater treatment and to maintain the integrity of wetlands. The CWA only covers waters connected to navigable waters and does not directly address ground water sources at all.  The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and Superfund have protections for groundwater in addition to other responsibilities. The CWA is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in coordination with state and tribal governments. In Missouri, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for implementing the CWA requirements.

One of DNR's jobs is to specify appropriate designated uses for each water body in the state. Designated uses include drinking water, whole body recreation, protection of fish and wildlife, and use for agriculture, industry and navigation.

The CWA employs a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) which uses permits to regulate point sources of pollution like mines, factories, sewage treatment plants, military bases, feedlots, and since 1987, industrial stormwater discharges and municipal separate storm sewer system discharges (MS4). For now, most agricultural discharges are exempted. To receive a permit, a facility must use the best available technology based controls to clean the water before releasing it.

When Missouri lakes or streams do not meet their designated uses through technology based controls, they go onto a 303(d) list until the state has developed a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of pollutant that can be released while still allowing the water body to meet its designated use. Once the TMDL is determined, the NPDES permits are modified to reduce pollution enough to bring the water quality up to its former standard. This is a time consuming and complex process because of the scientific and legal issues involved.

On Missouri's 2018 303(d) list the most common pollutant was Escherichia coli, a bacterium that colonizes the lower intestine of warm-blooded animals. Its presence indicates that the water is contaminated with a significant amount of feces from humans, wild animals, livestock or pets. Over 40% of E. coli contamination came from rural Nonpoint Sources (livestock), 33% from Urban Runoff/Storm Sewers (pets, geese and/or leaky sanitary sewer pipes) and the remainder from Waste Water Treatment Plants and unknown sources.

The second most common group of pollutants was heavy metals - lead, cadmium, copper, nickel and zinc -  left over from mining and smelting activities in Missouri’s lead belts. This was followed closely by mercury contamination of fish. Over a dozen other pollutants occur much less frequently. These include ammonia, nitrogen, phosphorus and chlorophyll a from sewage and fertilizer, the herbicide Atrazine, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and salts from urban streets.

The 303(d) list also includes cases where the cause is unknown but the ability to sustain life is impaired – low dissolved oxygen levels, and reduced numbers of sensitive macro-invertebrates and fish.

You can check out the 303(d) list here to see if there are any waters in your county that do not meet the state's designated use.


Kudos to MEEA and MELAB Members!

- Dadeville High School Students Branden Powell and Deah Powell Seiferd receive the Missouri Master Naturalists - Springfield Plateau Chapter 2018 Choose Environmental Excellence Award. Both students have contributed over 600 hours as MDC Conservation leaders under the supervision of MEEA Member Melvin Johnson.

Branden Powell and Deah Powell Seiferd receive Choose Environmental Excellence Awards

- Kansas City Public Schools Office for Energy and Sustainability's D. Jensen Adams is profiled in the April Green Schools National Network Newsletter. His biggest challenge this coming year? Reversing the trend towards keeping students indoors. Adams serves on MELAB.

D. Jensen Adams, KCPS

- Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School is recognized by the Green Schools National Network and the Center for Green Schools at the US Green Building Council as a winnter in the "Best of Green Schools" class of 2018. The award was accepted by MELAB member Michael Dittrich.


2018 Missouri Green Schools and Environmental Education Conference


Missouri Green Schools and Environmental Education Conference
November 2-3, Columbia MO

Four Formats - Hands On, Bright Spots*, Table Talks and Posters

Three Strands - PreK-5 Curriculum, 6-12 Curriculum, Nuts and Bolts

*We are seeking youth as well as adult presenters for the 10 minute Bright Spots. If you work with a youth or a youth group 12 to 23 that carried out a project they identified and selected, we would love to hear about it.

Deadline August 4, 2018

Things to Look for (or Look Out for) in May

Check out all the 2018 Green Holidays.

What to Look for Right Now - MDC's list of What's Out There in May!


Back to Table of Contents

Coming Up in the Next Two Months

(These count for Environmental Educator Certification categories 1, 2 or 3. Visit the EE Certification page here)

EE Jobs details here

Teaching and Learning: Water Pollution

One of the most effective ways to teach about water pollution is to use the socio-scientific approach.  This approach embeds the scientific content – water cycle, water chemistry, health – within an authentic issue. In this case, protection of water quality for human and environmental health. Students develop a policy position (the socio- part) justified by their understanding of what the data say (the scientific part).  Besides helping with mastery of the science, students learn to integrate science with communication arts, math and social science. We have also found some off the shelf lessons to help get into the topic, and we show where water pollution might fit into the Missouri Learning Standards.

Water Pollution in a 5E Lesson

  • Engage – Present a distinctive water pollution phenomenon with a field trip, guest speaker, data set, story or video
  • Explore – Have students collect data in the field, read books, or do library and/or internet research to learn more about the causes of the issue or event and any current efforts to fix the situation or prevent it from occurring in the future. Provide mini-lessons on aspects of the water cycle, water chemistry and other relevant topics to round out student understanding.
  • Explain – Have students work in small groups to construct a systems model that shows the factors, natural and anthropogenic, that contribute to the issue or event. The model should include any current efforts to fix things. Groups evaluate and provide feedback on each other’s models.
  • Elaborate – Have groups use the model to propose and test a solution (invention, policy, other) to improve the situation.
  • Evaluate – Have groups identify weaknesses in their models and their solution that can be addressed with more or better information, whether scientific or social.


Phenomena to Spark Learning

Grade Band

Example 1

Example 2

K-2 - should be concrete, nearby, short term, like observing things in a stream or ditch

have students follow stormwater running off school grounds to nearest drainage; have them make a list of things that are carried by rainwater

have students compare stream clarity of water before, during and after a storm

3-5 - better to be concrete, within their immediate watershed, using easily observed water characteristics

have students do a mini-clean up of a small section of stream, then sort and characterize the litter

have students sample the macro-invertebrates in a nearby stream and use biodiversity measures to evaluate stream health

6-8 - can be concrete to abstract, can be local to national or global

have students do simple water chemistry on samples from different areas in their larger watershed (relative to their town’s wastewater treatment plant or local industries)

have a speaker from a local water treatment plant present on cleaning water, or take a field trip to a plant – be sure to have students ask about the biggest problem

9-12 - can be very abstract, using maps, data tables and video clips, as well as samples, can be local to global

have students use the Missouri 303(d) list to see if there are any known water quality problems in their county

show a video clip of a current or emerging water quality issue or assign a documentary or movie


Emerging Water Pollution Issues

Even as we are still developing the cultural, economic and regulatory infrastructure to deal with existing water pollution issues, new ones are emerging.

Medicines and personal care products are now routinely detected in surface waters in the US and Europe. So far, there is no evidence of human health effects, but because of the variety of drugs and products, and their possible interactions, it is extremely difficult to research the issue. However, as early as 1994, scientists found feminization of fish exposed to sewage containing the active ingredient of birth control pills. Oxybenzone, an active ingredient of sunscreens, is believed to be toxic to corals and is now banned by many beach resorts.

Microplastics are plastic polymers less than 5 mm in size. Plastic waste in the oceans is already a well-recognized issue but microplastics have been detected in every ocean, and in most major freshwater lakes and rivers. They are a concern because the smaller they are, the more likely they are to enter the food chain and bioaccumulate in living tissue or even attach to salt in the water.

Fracking injects mixtures of chemicals into bedrock to improve the extraction of oil and natural gas. While the process is designed to avoid contamination of ground water sources, peer reviewed studies have found evidence of fracking chemicals or their by-products in test wells near ground water sources. One of the challenges is that conventional water testing methods don’t detect all of the chemicals used in fracking.


Water Pollution Lessons

There were no lessons dealing with water pollution for the Elementary grades (which is appropriate). However, water walks during a rain storm can help younger students grasp the idea that rain can carry anything on the surface into the nearest water body. There were also two lessons from Project WET that also help develop that understanding. Most of the explicit water pollution lessons were aimed at Middle School and above.

Stream Sense (Project WET - requires training)
Grades K-2
Students use their senses to observe a stream.

A-maze-ing Water (Project WET - requires training)
Grades K-2
Students guide a water drop through a maze of drainage pipes and learn how actions in the home and yard affect water quality.

Watershed Detectives
Grades 6-12
Students test spiked water samples to determine where in a watershed they might have come from and discuss ways to minimize pollution
Tests of turbidity, NO3, pH, plus data on DO and temperature

Water Pollution (from Marine Institute)
Grade 6
Students examine water spiked with oil, soap and soil before and after filtering with paper, sand and stones. Includes ideas for keeping water clean

Mitigating Microplastics (Oregon Sea Grant)
Grades 6-8
Includes three lessons aligned to NGSS and Common Core
Bags, Bottles, and Beads: Sources of Microplastics -  how individual actions impact the environment
Small Plastics, Big Problem – physical properties of microplastics due to their size, surface area to volume relationships
Mitigating Microplastics – designing a solution, collaboration, problem constraints, testing and redesigning solution

Pave it or Plant It (geometry, modeling, natural resources)
Grades 7-12
Collect runoff from a cookie sheet with and without a felt cover to model runoff in a watershed; record and analyze the data to construct a hydrograph; alter the slope of sheets and use different amounts of felt in different locations to vary outcomes; covers impervious vs. pervious surface, common runoff pollutants
Optional field activity – measure a lot and calculate impervious surface, calculate 1” storm runoff using model provided

The Dead Zone (NOAA)
Grades 9-12
Students learn how nutrient enrichment in aquatic habitats can result in low or no oxygen conditions by researching dead zone sources on the internet and designing an experiment to test the hypothesis that fertilizer and animal waste contribute to the problem.



Water Pollution in MLS

Water pollution is not dealt with directly in the standards. However, Earth and Space Sciences does include standards that would connect with water pollution in ESS3 - Earth and Human Activity

ESS3 – Earth and Human Activity



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