The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has loosened a Kansas City water park's environmental regulations despite a recent lawsuit over its pollution of waters leading into the Missouri River.

The agency changed Worlds of Fun's permit under the Clean Water Act this year to allow the water park to send more pollutants into the river, the Kansas City Star reported. The changes increased or removed limits for several pollutants, including chlorine, total suspended solids, and oil and grease, according to the newspaper's findings.

The state's Department of Natural Resources believes World of Fun's old permit was incorrect and the park shouldn't have been held to the same standards as a traditional wastewater facility, said Paul Dickerson, compliance and enforcement chief for the agency's Water Pollution Control Branch.

"We want people to know that we did not change this arbitrarily," he said.

Worlds of Fun spokesman Chris Foshee declined to comment on the permit level changes.

The water park reached a settlement in 2016 with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment , which alleged the park repeatedly violated the Clean Water Act by regularly dumping chlorine, copper and other pollutants in amounts exceeding state permit limits.

"You want this to strengthen the environmental law," Heather Navarro, the coalition's executive director, said of the lawsuit. "You want to uphold the clean water laws, and often what happens is instead of strong enforcement, they increase the limits."

Environmental groups have expressed concern about the permit's impact on the Missouri River's water quality and a rare sturgeon.

Larry O'Donnell, president of the Little Blue River Watershed Coalition, said that the park's permit level increase is a "back door" for allowing pollution. He said the state agency "is not servicing the people of Missouri, it's servicing industry."

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