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Lawmakers worried after Lawrence releases contaminated water

January 12, 2018

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers want to be better alerted after short notice was given that a city was authorized to release nitrogen-contaminated water into the Kansas River.

Republican Sen. Rob Olson of Olathe said Thursday at a Senate Utilities Committee meeting that he wants Lawrence’s contaminated water releases to not become normal operating practice. He also said there should be better notification along the river for such releases, the Lawrence Journal-World reported .

“Have we learned something here, to maybe improve on it?” Olson said. “And not just because it was Lawrence; there’s other issues that happen on this river.”

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment authorized the city to release up to 30 million gallons (113 million liters) of nitrogen-contaminated water from November to April to help clean up the former Farmland Industries nitrogen fertilizer plant in eastern Lawrence. The city can discharge up to 500,000 gallons (1.9 million liters) of contaminated water into the river every day, and has released about 10 million gallons (37.8 million liters) since authorization as given, according to Tom Stiles, assistant director of the department’s Bureau of Water.

People raised concerns after downstream water district WaterOne was notified only after the releases began. WaterOne serves about 425,000 people, or about 15 percent of the state’s residents.

The city and the department defended the limited notification, saying the river would dilute the nitrogen-contaminated water to safe levels.

“The most significant thing is, at no point during this entire exercise have the nitrate levels come anywhere near the 10-milligram-per-liter water quality standard,” Stiles said.

The department is requiring that the city come create a new plan for dealing with the water contamination. City officials must submit a plan that does not involve releases into the river by Feb. 1, according to documents provided to the committee.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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