A handful of Kansas environmental groups have filed a lawsuit alleging the federal Environmental Protection Agency is violating laws it is charged with enforcing by failing to declare whether state regulations are adequate to protect Kansas streams and rivers.
"It is regrettable that the people of Kansas have to continue to file lawsuits in federal court in order to get the EPA to fully carry out the Clean Water Act passed by Congress more than 30 years ago," the groups said Monday in a prepared statement.
The groups include the Kansas Natural Resource Council, state chapter of the Sierra Club, Friends of the Kaw and the Arkansas River Coalition.
Martin Kessler, a spokesman for the regional EPA office based in Kansas City, Kan., said the agency had no comment on the new litigation. He said the agency was busy working on the rules and regulations that the environmentalists want a ruling on.
"It's a high-priority item," Kessler said, adding there was no timetable to complete the task.
At issue are rules and regulations submitted in December 2002 by the state of Kansas to put in place new water quality standards.
The environmental groups said EPA had up to 60 days to approve the rules or 90 days to disapprove and specify needed changes.
That deadline passed about five months ago.
The environmental groups oppose the state rules, saying they were written to please the agricultural industry by allowing lax restrictions on waste runoff from farms, ranches and feedlots.
This is not the first time environmental groups in Kansas have sued the EPA to get it moving faster.
In July, a federal judge ordered the EPA to upgrade the potential use of more than 1,000 bodies of water in Kansas.
The result was that the EPA designated 1,062 bodies of water across the state as "primary contact recreational," which means the waters should be clean enough to fish and swim in. Therefore, industries and municipalities that discharge into these waters may have to improve their treatment processes to remove more bacteria from their waste, officials said.
The Kansas River is designated "primary contact recreational," which means it should be clean enough to fish or swim in, but it often has amounts of bacteria that would make it unsafe for swimmers.