LAWRENCE, Kan. — Officials with a water district downstream from Lawrence are concerned about the short notice they received regarding the city’s release of nitrogen-contaminated water into the Kansas River.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has authorized the city to release up to 30 million gallons of nitrogen-contaminated water over the next few months. It is part of a plan to clean up the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant in eastern Lawrence.

The authorization was given a few weeks ago, but neither the department nor the city notified independent public water district WaterOne at that time, said Mandy Cawby, spokeswoman for the district.

“Since Monday morning, we have contacted KDHE and Lawrence,” Cawby said. “We initiated those contacts to try to understand and get more information about what it is they intend to do and to express our concerns about the lack of advance communication.”

WaterOne is a public water utility that serves 425,000 people, or about 15 percent of Kansas residents.

The department didn’t notify the district because the impact on water quality made it a “nonissue,” said Tom Stiles, assistant director of KDHE’s Bureau of Water.

“When we ran through it, we didn’t think this was a cause for concern,” Stiles said. “There’d be no impact on the river, so it hadn’t risen to a level of us saying we better alert everybody that this is happening.”

Cawby said she asked the city last week to consider delaying the discharge a week to give WaterOne time to look over the information about the release. She said she’s concerned no modeling was done and that WaterOne wants to ensure monitoring occurs often enough to account for temporary spikes.

“They did not seem receptive,” Cawby said. “And because they began discharging within 18 hours of that conversation, I think that’s an accurate assessment of how they responded to our request.”


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