July 2018

branch is to administer the law, and the

judicial branch is to interpret the law.”

If left unchecked, the executive branch

can interpret a regulation more and more

broadly, leading to complaints of too

much government power. Then, if an

issue is taken to court, “it’s a crap shoot”

to know how the judicial branch might

interpret a law.

“The lines between the three branches

have gotten really blurry,” he said. “All

that results in uncertainty, in the

marketplace and in our everyday lives.”

Stiles’ advice to water systems is to

keep open lines of communication when

it comes to understanding and adhering

to regulations.

“Don’t lie to us, don’t blow us off,

don’t flip us off,” he said. “Have a

conversation with us, so we get the

context of your situation, and we’ll find a

path to get you back on roadway to

certainty so you can carry on with life’s


“KDHE relies on

technical assistance

from KRWA to help

the small towns in

Kansas get it right

when it comes to

abiding by the

regulations, both for

the Safe Drinking

Water Act and the

Clean Water Act as

well”, Stiles said. 

The Wednesday noon luncheon was attended by more than 1,200 people. The Hyatt

food service allowed for everyone to be through buffet lines in 24 minutes. 

about how it intends to proceed with

regulating water,” Stiles said. 

The EPA has signaled that it will work

cooperatively with state agencies,

particularly when it comes to

enforcement actions.

“There will be no surprises,” Stiles

said. “They’re not going to spring a

surprise attack on you without state

agencies knowing they’re coming. We’re

going to share our list (of systems in need

of inspection) with them and they will

share their list with us. That way you’re

not blessed with us coming out to do an

inspection, and then six months later the

EPA comes out for the same thing. That

only leads to consternation on your part.”

The state will still call on the EPA to

help with some enforcement issues, he

said – in emergency situations, when a

state program is considered deficient, or

when a system is significantly non-

compliant and the state hasn’t been able

to correct it.

The EPA has set a goal to reduce the

national percentage of non-compliant

wastewater systems from 24 to 21

percent in 2018 and 2019, Stiles said,

eventually reducing the percentage to 12

percent by 2022. 

“Kansas has a seven percent non-

compliance rate for wastewater systems,

and a compliance rate of 94 percent for

drinking water systems,” Stiles said.

“Our track record is solid,” he said.

“When it comes to compliance and

enforcement, we’re way above the

national average in terms of where

issues are.”

“The purpose of water regulations is

the same as the missions of KDHE and

KRWA,” Stiles said, “to provide high-

quality water that is safe”.

They also serve to protect the

environment, particularly from upstream

contaminants that have negative impacts


“I have enough of a libertarian streak

in me that I get the need for limited

government in our lives,” he said. “But

here’s the thing: streams and

groundwater don’t care about our

property lines.”

Regulations can provide a level

playing field by providing certainty to

businesses, Stiles said. Those regulations

work best, however, when they are well-

crafted – neither too narrow nor too


Science can help with the scope of

regulations, but sometimes can only go

so far, he said. 

The goal of science is to find a precise

value that can be linked to a precise

consequence. But is a fish in water with a

dissolved oxygen level of 5.1 mg/L better

off than a fish in water with a dissolved

oxygen level of 4.9 mg/L?

“In our world, in water, every story

doesn’t have two sides – it might have a

half-dozen,” he said. “It’s a big ask of

science to come up with convenient


Regulations work best when all parties

are communicating clearly with each

other and understanding all points of

view, Stiles said. 

They know that “stuff happens,” he

said. Problems arise when patterns and

habits develop of failing to comply.

It’s also important to provide input

when regulations are written, he said.

“If you want to know what a regulation

will do, ask the people who have to

implement it,” he said. Once regulators

hear concerns, they can use the feedback

to help decide if a regulation is truly

worrisome, or something that people will

be able to live with.

“Separation of power between the

executive, legislative and judicial

branches is critical to the rule-making

process,” Stiles said. “The legislative

branch is to create the law, the executive