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Experts, fishermen warn against dumping leaves in lakes around the Ozarks

Published: Oct. 25, 2020 at 9:12 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2020 at 10:25 PM CDT
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FORSYTH, Mo. (KY3) - Temperatures have cooled down a little bit lately, but it’s still that time of year to get outside and rake leaves.

Some communities around lakes, including Forsyth, are reminding people of issues with dumping leaves into water.

Dumping leaves on bodies of water in Missouri might not only be a nuisance for people living nearby, it’s also illegal. It’s something many might not have realized, but only people who handle leaves commercially can be fined.

Francis Skalicky, a spokesperson from the Missouri Department of Conservation, says dumping can cause some pretty big environmental issues.

“That leads to a lot of algae growth, and the end result is that it depletes oxygen from the water for fish and other creatures,” says Skalicky.

Leaves fall off trees on their own and occasionally will build up in the water, but experts say that’s different than you dumping a whole pile of them into the water.

“The difference is that when trees do it, it’s a more gradual process than when you do it.”

Fishermen say this organic buildup can impact wildlife. It also impacts boating too.

“You can’t drive your boat through them. Your motor gets clogged up and it’s like driving through a mass of weeds,” says Jim Larson, a Lake Taneycomo fisherman and resident.

Larson says he’s been worried about his lake’s water levels for a while. Like any lake, leaf buildup certainly doesn’t help with low levels.

“The silt and stuff after it decomposes, it just builds up more and adds to the runoff,” says Larson.

The best practice is composting those extra leaves.

“You can compost them yourself. You can use them on your garden, your flower beds or whatever. There are various places that will take your leaves and compost them for those purposes,” says Skalicky.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to burn them too. But be sure to check your city’s rules and regulations first.

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