Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2014

Editorial: River resource

Contaminated river water in other states offers a reminder of how important it is to Lawrence and its municipal water supply to protect the Kansas River.

March 6, 2014


Recent events that contaminated rivers that supply drinking water to communities in West Virginia and North Carolina should serve as a warning to all communities who, like Lawrence, depend on rivers for at least part of their municipal water supplies.

A federal grand jury investigation has been launched into the West Virginia chemical spill that left about 300,000 residents of Charleston, W.Va., unable to use that city’s water in January. The source of the chemical spill in West Virginia was a leaking storage tank that contained chemical foam used to wash coal.

In North Carolina, coal ash sludge poured out of a broken pipe into the Dan River for nearly a week in early February before the flow could be stopped. Several communities in North Carolina and neighboring Virginia draw drinking water from the Dan River, but despite tests showing higher levels of harmful chemicals such as arsenic in the river, officials have maintained that the water supply still is safe.

The coal ash that leaked into the Dan River was the material that remained after coal was burned to generate electricity at the retired power plant. That may get some additional attention from residents of Lawrence, which has a coal-fired power plant just upriver from its Kansas River water treatment facility.

There’s no particular reason to think the Kansas River, which represents about half of Lawrence’s water treatment capacity, faces a special threat, but the people who lived along the rivers in West Virginia and North Carolina probably thought the same thing. The fact is, the Kansas River, like many rivers across the country, is under constant pressure.

There are two other coal-fired power plants upstream from Lawrence on the river as well as dozens of wastewater treatment plants in the broader Kansas River watershed. Add to that surface runoff all along the route: runoff from communities and agricultural areas that carries everything from pet waste to herbicides and pesticides into the river. As population increases, various pollutants from runoff also increase.

How much can one river take?

Although we often take it for granted, water is our most precious resource, and will become even more precious in the future. We need to protect it.


Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 2 months ago

An excellent editorial!

People in North Carolina and West Virginia had very lax water policies, and they still do. And as a result some of these people still can't shower in their water or use it for drinking water. Every community in the United States should look very carefully at their supplies for drinking water, and whether the regulations are adequate. Lawrence is no exception.

We can't repeat enough the paragraph "there are two other coal-fired power plants upstream from Lawrence on the river as well as dozens of wastewater treatment plants in the broader Kansas River watershed. Add to that surface runoff all along the route: runoff from communities and agricultural areas that carries everything from pet waste to herbicides and pesticides into the river. As population increases, various pollutants from runoff also increase."

It is a paragraph which is wonderfully researched and well put. We need to know, as do all communities in Kansas, who in government and academics measures and regulates the water throughout Kansas, and where, how often, and how thorough measurements are kept (and acted upon if necessary).

And bottled water is not the answer. San Francisco is trying to end the use of bottled water, starting out by banning bottled water for large events, such as rock concerts. Millions of small plastic pieces are now in the ocean, all over the world. Many fish are consuming the small plastic pieces. This can't continue. Thousands of bottles are used ONCE and then thrown away.

Joe Blackford II 4 years, 2 months ago

The city of Manhattan has approved the stormwater retention plan for the National Bio- & Agro-(terrorism) Defense Facility (NBAF).

Those plans indicate a total of 3 stormwater runoff detention ponds. When the capacity of those ponds is exceeded, the runoff will be piped to the North along Denison Ave, then East along Marlatt Ave, emptying into the Big Blue River, just North of its confluence with the Kansas River.

In the event a significant rainfall coincides with a tornado of a magnitude sufficient to compromise the seals on the "positive-pressurized" NBAF, contagions may be released into the stormwater retention system.

During any year with rainfall similar to 1993, those retention ponds would be at, or above, capacity for several months. Although my neighborhood at the time (Butterfield Addition, East of the Big Blue) had standing water curb to curb, I declined the offer of the KSU Wildcats football team to sandbag my house. This surface water included floodwater from the Big Blue. I did lend my canoe to a resident in a neighborhood to the East of Allen Rd., so that he might retrieve possessions from his flooded home.,Manhattan,+KS&gl=us&ei=f0kZU9noEvL62gXukYH4Aw&sqi=2&ved=0CI0BELYD

Joe Blackford II 4 years, 2 months ago

Currently there are 8 foreign animal and zoonotic (a disease that can be passed between animals and humans) diseases planned for study (listed below) which require BSL-3 Ag and BSL-4 laboratory capabilities of the NBAF:

Foot & Mouth Disease Virus, Classical Swine Fever, African Swine Fever, Rift Valley Fever (1), Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia, and Japanese Encephalitis Virus (2), Nipah Virus and Hendra Virus (3)

Joe Blackford II 4 years, 2 months ago

(1) Additionally, epizootic outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever increase the likelihood of contact between diseased animals and humans, which can lead to epidemics of RVF in humans. One example occurred in 1977 when the virus was detected in Egypt (possibly imported from infected domestic animals from Sudan) and caused a large outbreak of RVF among both animals and humans resulting in over 600 human deaths.

Joe Blackford II 4 years, 2 months ago

(2) Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus is maintained in a cycle involving mosquitoes and vertebrate hosts, mainly pigs and wading birds. Humans can be infected when bitten by an infected mosquito. Most human infections are asymptomatic or result in only mild symptoms. However, a small percentage of infected persons develop inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), with symptoms including sudden onset of headache, high fever, disorientation, coma, tremors and convulsions. About 1 in 4 cases are fatal. There is no specific treatment for JE.

Joe Blackford II 4 years, 2 months ago

(3) Two of the three human patients infected with Hendra virus died. During the Nipah virus disease outbreak in 1998-99, 257 patients were infected with the virus. About 40% of those patients who entered hospitals with serious nervous disease died from the illness.

Joe Blackford II 4 years, 2 months ago

The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (CEEZAD) at Kansas State University has been established with $12,000,000 over 6 years from DHS to enhance capabilities by developing state-of-the-art countermeasures for high priority foreign animal and zoonotic diseases*. KSU requested $4,000,000 from the Kanss Bioscience Authority as a partial match of the funding.

*Zoonotic diseases are contagious diseases spread between animals and humans. These diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi that are carried by animals and insects. Examples are anthrax, dengue, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Escherichia coli infection, Lyme disease, malaria, Plague, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, salmonellosis, and West Nile virus infection.

Joe Blackford II 4 years, 2 months ago

According to the citation above, The KSU BRI was awarded this funding prior to ever receiving certification as a BioSafety Level - 3 lab.

The forensic audit of the KBA (cited previously) disclosed that ~ $200,000 was awarded to Dr. Franz's Midwest Research Institute to expedite BSL-3 certification of the BRI. It seems the million-dollar researcher, Dr. Jurgen Richt, the KBA bought from the USDA, Ames, IA, was incapable of securing certification of the BRI in a timely manner.

Joe Blackford II 4 years, 2 months ago

You folks downstream really have nothing to worry about.

No one on the staff of the KSU Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) at Pat Roberts Hall has ever seen in person any of these Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases.

Now that Via Christi has taken over Mercy Hospital, they're certain to add the infectious disease containment facilities said to be necessary by DHS. Less clear, is whether those facilities will be staffed with anyone who can quickly diagnose an emerging zoonotic disease.

Via Christi lists Asad K. Mohmand, MD, as an IDS @ Mercy Regional Health Center. And his degree from Khyber Medical College, University of Peshawar*, Pakistan, would suggest he may have some familiarity with EZDs &/or al-Qaeda.

  • Peshawar - the city regarded by many as al-Qaeda's birthplace

And yes, the Flood of 1993 was a 100-Year Flood, while the NBAF is to only have a 50-year lifespan (2018-2068).

Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 2 months ago

Joe, that was an excellent series of comments. I learned a lot from your references. Thank you!

Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 2 months ago

Today's article in the New York Times depicts a different town - Lake of the Woods, in southern California - but this article might as well cover most of Western Kansas, and Lawrence as well, if a serious pollutant gets in the water:

Please be sure to read the comments as well as the article. Without water, no serious life is possible. The Ogallala acquifer is in the same situation, so to speak, as the water supply is in southern California.

Can we keep using the Ogallala acquifer for animal grazing, as well as the industries that keep western Kansas towns alive?

Without water, life is virtually impossible. It's hard to believe that people didn't consider water availability when they purchased homes in Lake of the Woods.

The same is true for residents of Kansas in many parts of the state. Have residents of cities and farmers ever thought about what it really means to be without water?

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