Farmland Industries Inc. helped develop a plan to reduce its nitrate contamination of water that has flowed in to nearby aquifers.
The state is recommending that Farmland Industries Inc. spend $638,000 to recover and recycle polluted water that has flowed over the past 41 years from its nitrogen fertilizer plant in Lawrence in to three nearby aquifers, one of which supplies some area drinking wells.
A public hearing on the plan will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Lawrence Public Library auditorium, 707 Vt.
Farmland,1608 N 1400 Rd., which has already spent more than $1.3 million on measures to prevent additional pollution of the aquifers, supports the plan, which the company helped develop with state environmental regulators.
"We think the action being proposed is appropriate and protective of the environment and agree that's the thing to do," said Allan Holiday, technical superintendent at the Farmland plant, which occupies part of a 650-acre property off of Kansas Highway 10. Farmland Industries, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., began manufacturing nitrogen-based fertilizers there in 1954.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment hopes the plan, which would require installation of wells and pumps to recover groundwater contaminated with nitrate, will help lower nitrate concentrations in one of the aquifers, the deep Kansas River alluvial aquifer, which supplies well water for at least four homes on North 1500 Road.
KDHE also wants to prevent pollution of the Kansas River, said Rob Elder, a KDHE environmental geologist and remedial project manager for the Farmland site.
"The primary factor motivating this is protecting and fostering a natural resource -- a drinking water supply -- and the future use of that drinking water supply," Elder said.
State and federal regulators have been investigating soil and water pollution at the Farmland plant since 1990.
In 1993, KDHE and Farmland agreed to a consent order that required a Farmland subsidiary, Farmland Environmental Health and Safety, to conduct extensive tests and make cleanup recommendations.
The tests revealed, among other pollutants, chromium, lead and nitrate in groundwater samples, and chromium and nitrate in soil samples taken on the plant property.
The concentrations were not hazardous to plant workers or to nearby residents, Elder said.
But he said KDHE was concerned about the nitrate-contaminated groundwater, because even in low concentrations, nitrate can cause illness in infants who drink it.
KDHE was concerned that additional nitrate might flow from the plant and two polluted aquifers into the deep aquifer that supplies the private wells, thus increasing the risk of illness in the future.
Elder said the cleanup plan would remove contaminated water from the aquifer and eventually replace it with uncontaminated runoff.