Archive for Saturday, October 2, 1999

STATE HOPES BEGIN CLEANING UP AREA WATERS

October 2, 1999

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The Kansas Water Office and Kansas-Lower Republican Basin Advisory Committee are working on strategies for cleaner water in northeast Kansas.

Kansas water officials hope to get state funding next year to begin cleaning up water pollution in northeast Kansas in order to comply with federal clean water laws.

Margaret Fast of the Kansas Water Office said the plan was outlined this week at a meeting of the Kansas-Lower Republican Basin Advisory Committee in Mankato.

"This is how we are going to be targeting our water quality protection funding, now and in years to come," Fast said of the clean-up plan.

The plan for the Kansas-Lower Republican basin is one part of an overall Kansas Water Plan that is sent each year to the governor and Legislature for approval.

This year, however, the plan for northeast Kansas is somewhat different because it calls for implementing water quality standards that resulted from a federal lawsuit involving local environmental groups and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Those standards, known as Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, identify specific steps the state intends to take to bring lakes, rivers and streams in northeast Kansas into compliance with federal clean water standards.

That includes identifying where various kinds of pollution are coming from and adopting strategies for reducing the flow of contamination from those sources.

In 1994, the Kansas Natural Resource Council and the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club sued the EPA for failing to impose those standards on Kansas, as required by the Clean Water Act, after the state Department of Health and Environment failed to do so on its own.

The case was settled in 1998 when the state agreed to a schedule for adopting TMDLs for each of the river basins in Kansas, beginning this year with the Kansas-Lower Republican Basin, which covers 10,500 square miles in northeast Kansas, including most of Douglas County.

Some of the most common pollution problems in the basin, according to state documents, are excessive levels of ammonia and chlorides flowing from public sewage treatment plants, as well as fecal coliform bacteria, which often seeps into rivers from livestock yards and failing septic tanks.

Although Clinton Lake and the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers are identified as high priorities in the water plan, Fast said, much of the pollution in those waters comes from sources farther upstream, which is where most of the emphasis of the water plan will be focused next year.

Fast said the plan that the Kansas Water Office will send to the Legislature next year resulted in part from advice it received from the Basin Advisory Committee, a group of 11 people representing various groups of water users, including cities, industries, farmers, recreational users and sportsmen.

Some of the efforts outlined in the plan include increased enforcement of septic tank codes in high priority watersheds, upgrading livestock waste management systems, and restoring riparian and wetland habitats along river banks, which help filter out pollution runoff from agricultural fields.

-- Peter Hancock's phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is phancock@ljworld.com.

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