KRWA E-News for July 6, 20202
07/06/2020 - Weekly KRWA E-News
City of Topeka Resumes Utility Disconnections
According to a news release from Molly Hadfield, the city’s media relations director, utility accounts not in good standing will be subject to disconnects beginning this week. The city also is making several resources available for those struggling to make payments. One of those resources is the WaterShare Program, which was created by local charitable organizations in partnership with the City of Topeka to assist residents who need help with their water utility bills. The program allows customers to make a small monthly contribution to the fund to help those who are less fortunate. The state's Executive Orders that had prohibited utility disconnects by public systems expired May 26. Similarly, the KCC order that had prohibited utility disconnects by private systems, expired May 31. [source]
Face Mask Debate Rages in Kansas
As coronavirus infections surge in Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly last week issued an Executive Order requiring the wearing of face masks in public areas. The requirement is in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, which recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Local health officials have the authority to adjust the mandate at their own discretion. Kelly's political opponents have widely denounced the decision, but it has been widely praised by health experts across the state, such as Lyon County Health Officer Renee Hively, who remarked that masking may be one of the few options left before that county reverts to a stay-home order should there be another spike in cases. Other county health departments, such as Douglas County's, had already been working on their own local requirements for face masks. “Wearing masks and cloth face coverings is based on sound science that shows this practice will help slow the spread and decrease the transmission of COVID-19,” said Douglas County health officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino, while introducting the county order just hours before the state-wide order was announced. Among public health experts, little debate now exists that masks are useful in curbing the spread of the virus. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Kansas Health System, said areas with mask usage have lower spread and death related to the virus. Anecdotal evidence from other countries, where face coverings were compulsory, notably Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia, have also shown that the spread of coronavirus might have been slowed there in part as a result of face masks. If you're not convinced, a new video using slow-motion schlieren imaging shows why masks work. And a new video from Japan further demonstrates how wearing simple cloth face masks might keep you and those around you safe during the pandemic.
NRWA Announces New CEO
Matthew Holmes was named as CEO of the National Rural Water Association last week, to replace Sam Wade who retired in June. Holmes had previously served as NRWA Deputy CEO, since Jan. 2014. In announcing his appointment, NRWA noted that Holmes' years of experience and passion for the water and wastewater industry are invaluable qualities that he brings to the association. “I still remember my first day working for the New Mexico Rural Water Association, when I went into the field with Circuit Rider Lupe Aragon and Wastewater Technician Leon Romero. On that day, they told me what the organization was all about, and I have never forgotten their words. I have tremendous respect for the essential work being done by State Associations all around our nation. Rural Water is special, totally unique and full of potential for the future. It is a privilege to be a leader of an organization as great as Rural Water, and I promise I will never take take this fact for granted,” Holmes said. [source]
KDWPT Considers Closing Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area Due To Safety Concerns
Concerns over high numbers of visitors, illegal activities, and complaints from area residents have staff from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Public Lands Division considering a temporary closure of Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area. The 59-acre area, which sits on Deep Creek just seven miles southeast of Manhattan, was donated to KDWPT in 1967. For more than 50 years, the area has provided day-use visitors with public access to one of the most scenic areas in the northern Flint Hills region, complete with a natural low-water crossing and waterfall. However, in recent years, the wildlife area has become a hot spot for activities not permitted on the premises, including alcohol consumption, off-road vehicle use, trespassing and other public disturbance-related issues. The recent uptick in visitation has also led to traffic congestion and overflow parking issues, which impact local traffic and first responders’ ability to quickly access the area in an emergency. “This is a scenic area that was intended to be a peaceful spot for families to enjoy, but crowds are getting larger and alcohol-related issues are becoming common occurrences,” KDWPT Public Lands Division director Stuart Schrag said. “While our law enforcement staff continue to manage the area to the best of their abilities, Pillsbury Crossing may very well be closed if visitors continue to disregard posted notices and area regulations.” [source]
KU Recognizes 2020 Sustainability Leadership Award Recipients
Of the recipients announced last week, Belinda Sturm, professor and associate vice chancellor for research has received a Faculty Award, from University of Kansas Center for Sustainability, for researching removal of nutrients and microplastics from wastewater, improving water quality while creating alternative fuels and fertilizers. Her expertise is being applied at the city of Lawrence wastewater treatment plant and across the state as she works to develop sustainable water use policies and water management plans. [source]
Communicating with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment
COVID-19 is causing many office state employees to work from home, including many if not all KDHE environmental staff. Cathy Tucker-Vogel, Chief of the Drinking Water Section, has reported to KRWA that her staff are working from home and do not have Department-issued cell phones. She said the best way to contact individual staff is by e-mail, as all staff receive e-mail at home. Another option is to call the main KDHE number. The answering service will forward the information to the appropriate individual who then will respond. The main KDHE phone number is (785) 296-5514. KRWA has uploaded a listing of KDHE contacts on its website. Click here to download or open that file. If anyone has a water or wastewater system, after-hours emergency, call the KDHE Spill Line at (785) 296-1679.
NWS Proposes Major Changes to Watch, Warning and Advisory System
Over the past 6 years, the National Weather Service (NWS) has utilized a series of social science engagements to explore possible improvements to the NWS Watch, Warning, and Advisory (WWA) system. Their research has found that users believe there are too many WWA products, message formats are inconsistent, and WWA headlines can be confusing. NWS are therefore proposing only using two primary headline terms: “Watch” and “Warning” and discontinuing the use of all “Advisory”, “Special Weather Statements” and “Short Term Forecast” headlines. The “Watch” and “Warning” terms would only be used for major weather hazards that threaten life or property. If Watch is used then you should prepare for a potential significant weather event, but if Warning is used then you should take immediate action as there is an imminent weather hazard in your area. To choose the best path forward on their proposal, NWS are asking for feedback. Please take their survey to voice your opinion. [source]
The Kanasas drought picture worsened last week as shown in the latest U.S. Drought Monitor. Above normal temperatures, low humidity, high winds, and below normal precipitation during June have led to continued degradation in southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado. A small area of Exceptional Drought (D4) has now been added to extreme southwest Kansas covering portions of Morton, Stanton and Stevens counties. Since Jan. 1, Garden City has only received 2.75 inches of rain. The normal is 10.31 inches, according to Bill Turner, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Dodge City. The further west, the drier it gets, he said, adding that, “We’re going into the summer doldrums. It’s going to be hot and dry most of the time.” While some slight improvements were noted elsewhere, they were overshadowed by degradations across the rest of the state.
Current U.S. Drought Monitor maps for:
Arkansas River Basin, High Plains Region, North-Central Region, Southern Plains Region and State of Kansas