MONTREAL, Mo.– An illegal landfill in Laclede County leads to the Lake of the Ozarks. It’s a sinkhole that has been used as a dumping ground for decades. The water that travels through all the trash ends up miles away in a famous spring.
The project of digging out Goodwin Pit started in January. “A mess. I mean, the whole thing was just full of tires, trash, there was even like dead animals down there,” says Klaus Leidenfrost, President of Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy, which is leading the cleanup effort.
So far, they’re removed 20 tons of trash, one ton of metal and nearly 1,000 tires. “This is just multiple decades of dumping, people just driving along the road, dumping stuff out,” says Leidenfrost.
The frustrated landowner donated the site to Missouri Caves and Karts Conservancy. “He was unable to get it stopped or any help to clean it up,” Leidenfrost says.
The problem with a dump at this location: it’s a sinkhole that fills with water. “With sinkholes, anything you dump in a sinkhole goes straight into the groundwater, which could end up in your well,” says Leidenfrost.
Researchers recently poured dye into Goodwin Pit to see where else the water went. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources found that at least part of the water that goes into Goodwin Sinkhole comes more than ten miles away at Ha Ha Tonka Spring, eventually affecting the water quality in the Lake of the Ozarks.
“The tires, of course, break down, release chemicals; the other thing is appliances- some have the compressors that have freon in them. You find like oil jugs, plenty of household stuff,” Leidenfrost says.
“It’s of interest to me, because I live at Lake of the Ozarks, and the sinkhole was dye traced to Ha Ha Tonka Spring, so because of water quality issues, because of the cave system that is possibly there,” says Ken Long of Lake Ozarks Grotto.
Volunteers have made a lot of progress, but the job is almost overwhelming. “We’ve dug some holes, sort of test holes down 15 feet, and we’re still coming up with trash and tires, and it could still go deeper than that,” says Leidenfrost.
They welcome more helping hands to bring back the site’s natural beauty. “Anything to help us get this back where it’s supposed to be,” says Long.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is hauling away all the tires and has awarded a $10,000 grant to help with supplies for the cleanup, but it doesn’t pay for heavy equipment, which Leidenfrost says is necessary. DNR is bringing a geo-probe to the site next week to measure the depth to bedrock, which may indicate the depth of the trash pile.
If you’d like to volunteer or make a donation, contact Amy Crews of Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy at firstname.lastname@example.org