Weekly News - Sep. 10, 2018
09/10/2018 - Weekly KRWA E-News
New Report Assesses Health of the High Plains Aquifer
As part of an effort to monitor and maintain the health of the High Plains aquifer, the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas has released a new publication, “Status of the High Plains Aquifer in Kansas,” which provides an assessment of the aquifer’s condition and highlights areas most at risk. It also advances an innovative water-balance approach developed at the KGS for estimating how far pumping would have to be cut back to extend the life of endangered sections of the aquifer. The results indicate groundwater levels could be sustained in most of the imperiled areas of western Kansas for at least one to two decades by reducing pumping between about 27 and 33 percent. “If water use becomes unsustainable, farmers will eventually have to convert to dryland farming,” said Don Whittemore, KGS senior scientific fellow emeritus. Besides affecting irrigation, continued groundwater declines could threaten municipal and industrial water supplies. Lower water levels have already impacted rivers and creeks interconnected with the aquifer in western Kansas, which can damage near-stream wildlife habitat.
Kansans Mad at Being Kept in the Dark About Groundwater Contamination
A lack of adequate funding and deregulation are being blamed for a slow response by state regulators after discovering dry cleaning contamination of groundwater at Haysville. “We didn’t find out for 7 years,” said Joe Hufman, whose domestic well was contaminated by a Haysville dry cleaner. “Haysville knew it. KDHE knew it. Kwik Shop knew it.” A similar delay had happened at least once before, at a dry-cleaning site near Central and Tyler in Wichita, where the state waited more than four years between discovering contamination nearby and notifying residents of more than 200 homes. The delays stem from a 1995 state law that reportedly places more emphasis on protecting the dry-cleaning industry than protecting public health. State regulators are forbidden from looking for dry cleaning contamination. Moreover, there are no regulations in Kansas that require testing for toxic chemicals in private domestic wells. A standard well test looks only at bacteria and nitrates, and that’s the kind of test people use when a property is transferred. Leo Henning, who is the director of environment for the KDHE, said the state acted as soon as it found out that the contamination had reached the drinking water wells.
Sierra Club Accuses KCC of Continuing to Issue Injection-Well Permits Without Proper Public Notice
An attorney representing the Kansas Sierra Club, Douglas County and five individuals before the Kansas Corporation Commission have filed a new motion alleging that as recently as July an oil company operating in Wilson County had published two public notices for injection-well permits that contained only a 15-day public notice. Earlier this year, it was discovered that more than 2,000 permits for injection wells throughout Kansas dating back to 2008, after giving the public only 15 days in which to file protests, instead of the federally required 30 days. “The remedy that we’ve asked for in that investigation docket is to have all the permits that were issued on a defective published notice to be revoked and to have the holders of those permits reapply under a proper notice,” Sierra Club attorney Robert Eye said in an interview. Eye’s clients have argued that allowing only a 15-day notice does not give the public sufficient time to prepare an adequate protest petition and that it violates federal regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires a 30-day notice.
Hays Wastewater Treatment Plant Rebuild at Halfway Mark, Ahead of Schedule
Reconstruction of the Hays wastewater treatment plant has reached the halfway mark, underway for 13 months and another 13 months to go. The progress update was presented to the Hays city commission by Eric Farrow, HDR on-site engineer at the facility. “We kicked off the project May 31, 2017, with the notice to proceed and final completion is set for Sept. 15, 2019,” reported Farrow. It may be finished before then. “We continue to get schedule updates from the contractor monthly and the most recent schedule we have is July 15th next year, less than one year.”
Rural Water Clean Water Act Technical Assistance Provision
The House and Senate environmental committees are in discussions to reconcile their two versions of the 2018 Water Resources and Development Act (The Senate's S. 2800 and the House's H.R. 8). There is an urgency to finalize a Senate-House WRDA legislative package because it will have to pass Congress and be presented to the President before this year’s adjournment. The Senate included Senator Wicker's (MS) bill, S. 518, that authorizes a new initiative that would allow states to use up to 2 percent of their clean water state revolving fund for technical assistance. Reports from the discussion indicate the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is resisting Senator Wicker's legislation.
KDWPT and KDHE Urge Pet Owners to Protect Animals from Harmful Algae
Officials with the Kansas Departments of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and Health and Environment want dog owners to be aware how dangerous harmful algae blooms (HABs) can be to their dogs. A HAB may look like foam, scum or paint floating on the water and be colored blue, bright green, brown or red. There may also be a very strong musty odor or the smell of sewage or petroleum. This season, if the water appears or smells suspicious or if there is decaying algae on the shore, do not let your furry friend drink, swim or retrieve birds in the water. Just a small amount of blue-green algae can sicken or kill a dog. The signs of illness in dogs usually occur within 30 minutes of exposure and include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, convulsions, difficulty breathing and general weakness. If you suspect your dog has ingested algae or has any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. After emerging early this decade for the first time since state health officials can remember, harmful algal blooms now happen in lakes and ponds across Kansas regularly. Health officials only know the basics about what’s causing them: too many nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, that get into the water system when heavy rains wash fertilizer off farm fields. University of Kansas researchers want to know more. They’re conducting the largest study of its kind to figure out just what it takes to trigger a harmful algae bloom in the wild.
Ten Injured After Explosion, Roof Collapse at Chicago Area Water Reclamation Plant
Ten people were seriously injured Aug. 30, when an explosion caused a section of roof to collapse at a water reclamation plant near Chicago, trapping two of the injured people inside, authorities said. The explosion occurred shortly before 11 a.m. at the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant's sludge concentration building, according to a statement from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which operates the plant. On Aug. 31, the Chicago Fire Dept Office of Fire Investigations said in a statement that the cause of the explosion was use of a worker's torch in an area with a significant amount of methane gas present, which caused ignition and a shock wave that lifted the roof.
KRWA Training Calendar
Sep. 11-14: Fort Riley
Cross Connection - Backflow Prevention
Sep. 12: Garden City
Operation & Maintenance of Wells and Distribution Systems
Sep. 14: Wichita
Water & Wastewater System Workshop
Sep. 19: Beloit
Competent Person For Trenching and Excavation
Sep. 20: Beloit
Confined Space Entry
Continued rainfall has resulted in significant drought reductions in Kansas, as depicted on the latest U.S. Drought Monitor. Conditions improved enough to shrink areas labeled as abnormally dry, in the central and south-central part of the state. In east-central Kansas, some areas labeled moderate to extreme drought have also improved. Unfortunately, the core drought area, labeled extreme to exceptional, in east-central Kansas received much less rainfall and little or no improvements were made there. The remnants of former tropical storm Gordon moved across eastern counties late last week and additional drought relief likely will be shown on next week's map. Gov. Jeff Colyer last week issued a state of disaster emergency declaration for five Kansas counties affected by flooding last week. Named in the declaration are Jewell, Kingman, Marshall, Pratt, and Riley Counties. Damages in those counties included washed out roads, bridges, culverts and flooding to some businesses and residential properties. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism office in Pratt was closed due to flooding, as portions of the lower level of the building were inundated. The KDWPT fish hatchery at Pratt also suffered flood damage. As was widely publicized, over 300 people were evacuated last week due to flooding in Manhattan, where nearly 9 inches of rain fell. The National Weather Service estimates 10-15 inches of rain fell in a small area along a portion of U.S. Highway 77, in Marshall County last week, between Marysville and Blue Rapids. On Sep. 6, the US Army Corps of Engineers reported the estimated Tuttle Creek Lake inflow for the three gauged upstream sites from the Big Blue, the Little Blue, and the Black Vermillion Rivers was over 35,000 c.f.s., while the reservoir was discharging 200 c.f.s for most of the week. Chip Redmond, assistant scientist for the weather data library at KSU, told the Hays Daily News that after the current rain moves out of the area, he expects a return to drier weather will offset the above normal precipitation of recent weeks. For the week ahead, the NOAA/WPC 7-day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast appears to also favor dry conditions for the entire state this week.
Current U.S. Drought Monitor maps for:
Arkansas River Basin, High Plains Region, North-Central Region, and Southern Plains Region