Topeka An environmental group says criticism of proposed federal water standards for Kansas is overblown, particularly a rule that would regulate privately owned lakes and ponds.
The Sierra Club's Kansas chapter issued a three-page statement Thursday. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to have hearings next week in Topeka and Dodge City on the proposed standards.
Those standards address what EPA sees as deficiencies in state standards on designating rivers and lakes for different uses, streams with low flows, stream beds where waste discharges create the only flow and limitations on a certain pollutant.
Much of the criticism from state officials and agriculture groups has focused on the proposal to extend water quality standards to lakes and ponds on private land.
"There has been a lot of whipping up of emotion, particularly over the private ponds issue," said Charles Benjamin, a Lawrence attorney who represents the Sierra Club.
Agriculture Secretary Jamie Clover Adams disagreed. She said Kansans have genuine concerns about the scope of EPA's regulations and the costs they could create.
The 75 pages of regulations arose from the settlement of a lawsuit filed last year against the EPA by the Sierra Club and the Kansas Natural Resource Council.
The groups argued that EPA wasn't doing its duty under the federal Clean Water Act by replacing state water standards that the EPA found deficient.
In its statement, the Sierra Club called the standards "the right thing for Kansas."
The farm pond proposal has drawn attention because agriculture groups argue it represents an increased intrusion by the federal government on private property rights. They also note that many farm ponds are used exclusively for watering livestock.
Benjamin said EPA won't regulate man-made ponds or those not connected to another body of water. The EPA has said it only wants to have the ability to intervene when a serious pollution problem arises.
"No regulatory agency has staff to snoop around thousands of farm ponds anyway," the Sierra Club statement said. "If someone's activities do not affect the property rights of other,s they have nothing to worry about."
Adams said most private ponds were created by damming a source of water runoff, making them qualify for regulation. She also said placing the ponds under federal rules would give groups like the Sierra Club a way to intervene.
"They can go out and file citizen suits whenever they want to," Adams said.