Archive for Tuesday, November 14, 1995


November 14, 1995



FMC Corp. is ready to answer questions about arsenic seeping from its old waste pond and into groundwater south of the plant.

Al Herring, the plant's engineering and technical services manager, may be reached at 749-8135.

Paul Studebaker, environmental and hygiene engineer, may be reached at 749-8139.

FMC also is willing to test private wells in the area, particularly south and west of the plant. Call Herring or Studebaker for more information.

FMC Corp. officials hope to have more information about arsenic and its effects in three to six months.

A year ago, Don Palmateer didn't like the taste of his morning coffee.

"Too much iron," he said.

Today, the North Lawrence farmer is grateful he made the switch to store-bought bottled water. He learned this month that his well contains unusually high levels of arsenic, due to seepage from a capped waste pond at the nearby FMC Corp. phosphorus plant.

During a neighborhood meeting Monday night, Palmateer heard company officials discuss plans for monitoring the area and investigating possible solutions.

About the only thing Palmateer knows for sure, though, is that he shouldn't drink his water. Whether it's OK for irrigating his garden's sweet corn, tomatoes and cucumbers remains to be seen.

"There are a lot of questions yet to be answered," Palmateer said.

Fred von Ahrens, plant manager, said FMC considered the arsenic as a problem to be taken "very seriously." Testing south of the plant last month revealed seepage onto private property, attributed to an unlined waste pond that was properly cleaned and closed in 1972.

Long-term exposure to arsenic, a carcinogen, can cause black foot disease, pigmentation changes, skin lesions, fatigue and energy loss in humans, said Greg Crawford, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

That's what worries Wanda Howard, who's lived west of the plant for more than 30 years. She said she underwent surgery for breast cancer two years ago and still complains of stomach problems.

"They are a big corporation, and we are just little people," Howard said before the meeting. "If a couple of us die, it's nothing compared to what they bring in in a year. We're just little people."

But not everyone's sold on the arsenic situation. Everett Dexter, 418 Elm, isn't worried that some arsenic readings in wells exceeded the drinking water standard of 50 parts per billion.

"Those numbers the government sets -- it's usually a bunch of baloney," Dexter said. "I don't think anybody ought to be worrying about it."

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