JEFFERSON CITY – After several years of trying, it looks as though rural churches may get some legislative relief from stringent regulations regarding their water wells.
Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, has tried for several years to get the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to reclassify small rural church wells. They currently come under the guidelines for “non-community, non-transient” businesses on the basis that they serve 25 people or more 60 days of the year.
Cox is trying to get them classified under the same guidelines as “multifamily” status, which applies to facilities such as apartments and which has fewer people, lesser usage, and less strict guidelines than the commercial category.
Cox’s House Bill 250 (HB 250) was approved by the Missouri House of Representatives March 16 by a vote of 117-36 and had its first reading in the Senate the same day.
The need for such legislation came to Cox’s attention in 2007 when Camp Branch Baptist Church in Sedalia was cited for a casing which allowed ground water to seep into its well.
Because of its classification, the church could not simply reline the casing. DNR determined that it needed a new well under the guidelines of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act.
This year’s HB 250 provides for changing the classification for charitable or benevolent organizations if the system does not regularly serve an average of 100 people or more at least 60 days of the year and does not serve a school or day-care facility.
The law would further provide for remedy in the event of contamination.
Finally, the state would not be allowed to require changes, upgrades, or replacement of wells built prior to the time the law takes effect, Aug. 28, 2011, unless they become a threat to groundwater or become contaminated.
In the meantime, Camp Branch Baptist Church has built a new well. Original estimates of the cost were in the range of $30,000 to $35,000. The actual cost of building to DNR specifications was $42,000.
“Passage of HB 250 could save a bunch of small churches the hassle of having to put in a $42,000 well,” said Rev. Rob Ayers, pastor of Camp Branch Baptist Church.
BARBARA SHOUN/contributing writer