December/January Issue of the Planet Kansas
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Water and Toxics, Matters of Life and Death by Terry Shistar
Sidebar: Recommendations of the Surface Water Quality Commission by Terry Shistar
Issues, Elections, and the March Appeal by Craig Wolfe
Hog Factory Showdown in the State Legislature By Craig Volland
KDHE's New Animal Waste Regulations Won't Resolve the Hog Controversy by Craig Volland
The Issues Facing Kansas (jump to Web Site Special Section)
Hog Threat Moves East by Craig Volland
Transportation Newza by Wayne Sangster
Overland Park in International Climate Conference by Jay Lehnertz
Water and Toxics
Matters of Life and Death an Editorial Comment on the Surface Water Quality Commission
By Terry Shistar
Until recently, those of us in the environmental and public interest community who have been following the meetings of the Surface Water Quality Commission have reserved our judgment of the process. Although it was clear that the intent of the legislature was to weaken the water quality standards when they established the commission, although the commission was obviously stacked in the direction of weakening the standards, and although it is staffed by a representative of the Governor's office who has long represented interests seeking to weaken the standards, we decided we would give the process a chance. We would reserve judgment. We would submit our evidence and suggestions to the commission.
It is now clear that the commission is in the process of doing just what it was intended to do--destroying the remnants of water quality protection in the state. Not content with a ranking of 50th in the nation in water quality, the commission will make water quality even worse by bending the yardstick by which it is measured, and sending a clear message to polluters that Kansas waters are sewers. In doing so, they dole out more handouts to the rich and powerful, at the expense of the poor downstream. They protect friends in the revolving door between regulators and regulated.
They don't want to see the people of Johnson County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, pay a few cents more each month to clean up their sewage. That's OK. Johnson County's Mission/Turkey Creek plant discharges sewage into the poorer Wyandotte County.
They don't want to inconvenience the agricultural community, which can tip the balance of power in the Republican Party. So if you don't want atrazine in your water, you can buy bottled water.
They think swimming pools are the right place for total body immersion, not rivers and streams, so Topeka can continue to use the Kansas River as their toilet and feedlots can allow streams to fill with "manure tea."
They have made it very clear in their discussions of issues and their draft report that only evidence under consideration is that brought to them by the major polluters. Evidence presented by independent scientists and representatives of environmental and public interest organizations has been totally ignored. We might has well have stayed home. Of the many recommendations we made, only a few made it onto the "comprehensive" list of issues to be considered in the final report, and they have been summarily dismissed--even when they were statements of federal law.
Marie Antoinette sparked a revolution by saying to the poor who had no bread, "Let them eat cake." Perhaps this commission will at least provoke an outburst by saying, "Let them clean up our sewage, drink bottled water, and swim in swimming pools."
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Sidebar: Recommendations of the Surface Water Quality Commission
Commentary by Terry Shistar
The Preliminary Report of the Kansas Special Commission on Water Quality Standards can be obtained from the Governors office by calling Jamie Clover Adams at 785-296-1773. Comments should be directed to the letters section of your local newspaper, the Governors office, the Chair of the Commission (Jim Triplett), and your local state legislatorsmy order of preference. I urge you to stress above all your support for clean water and unhappiness with efforts to allow more pollution.
The Commission recommendations are as follows, with my commentary.
Recommendation 1. Process for Establishing Designated Uses. A provision should be added to Kansas statute outlining policy considerations that must be addressed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) in establishing designated uses, including economic impact assessments and a shifting of the burden of proof to the State in a disagreement with a polluter.
First of all, this seems to be premised on the idea (expanded further below) that the state can remove use designations at will. The Clean Water Act requires certain uses (protection of fishing and swimming) be designated wherever possible and also that existing uses and most designated uses cannot be removed. The Clean Water Act specifically puts the burden of proof on those who would downgrade use designations.
Recommendation 2. Review Current Use Designations. A provision should be added to Kansas statute requiring KDHE to review current use designations in a systematic manner, with input from the local community.
The idea that a local community should decide what uses to protect seems attractive until you realize that waters of the state are a common resource. One city can decide that it doesnt care about swimming in the river, but what about the people downstream? What about the fish and other critters that depend on the river?
Recommendation 3. Components of Use Attainability Analysis. KDHE should develop a scientifically based, objective process to conduct use attainability analyses. KDHE should consider using use attainability analyses from independent entities so long as each entity has followed the process for use attainability analyses developed by the agency.
KDHE did contract with Kansas State University to develop a methodology for performing use attainability analyses (UAAs), and this methodology has been used. Currently, most UAAs are performed by dischargers when they want to downgrade use designations. The Commissions proposals would have KDHE spend many years performing UAAs to justify protection of uses.
Recommendation 4. Ammonia Criteria. Winter ammonia limits should be addressed, including an evaluation of the aquatic community after seasonal nitrification. A 30-day averaging period for chronic toxicity is reasonable.
This recommendation has been carefully worded to avoid saying anything obviously bad. The Commission seems to be leaning towards weakening wintertime protection from ammonia. The thirty-day averaging period would allow concentrations of ammonia to be toxic for considerable periods of time, as long as the average over a month is not too high.
Recommendation 5. Atrazine Criteria. As an interim measure, the atrazine criterion for chronic aquatic life protection should remain at the legislatively set 3 ppb until more research on the range from 1 ppb to 20 ppb is reviewed or conducted.
The 3 ppb criterion is arbitrary and capricious. It has no scientific basis as a standard for aquatic life protection, but has been set politically at the level established by EPA for finished drinking water.
Recommendation 6. Chloride Criteria. KDHE should establish regional or segment-specific chloride criteria.
In the current standards, there is a process for setting site specific criteria where they are appropriate. The process of setting segment-specific criteria could be very time-consuming. This is another case where the burden of proof is being shifted to KDHE to show why streams should be protected.
Recommendation 7. Fecal Coliform Criteria. KDHE should reexamine the EPA fecal coliform bacteria criterion to determine whether it is an adequate indicator of public health risk.
Fecal coliform bacteria comes mainly from two sourcesfeedlots and sewage. But some people want to study how much comes from geese and deer. Also, there is a proposal on the table to disinfect sewage only in the summer because people dont swim in the winter.
Recommendation 8. Seasonal Criteria. KDHE should consider seasonal variations of criteria where appropriate.
The Commission thinks we might be able to weaken standards in the winter time or during high flows for ammonia, dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform.
Recommendation 9. General Pollutant Criteria. If water quality criteria are established that are more stringent than EPA requirements, they should be required to be justified with a risk assessment analysis, and where appropriate, a cost-benefit analysis.
Criteria are supposed to be set at a level that protects the use. There is EPA guidance for some criteria, and the Clean Water Act says the state cannot be less stringent than the guidance without demonstrating that the proposed criteria are adequate to protect the use. A cost-benefit analysis is not appropriate in setting criteria. The Clean Water Act provides other mechanismssuch as variances--for addressing costs.
Recommendation 10. Stream Impairment Determination. Narrative criteria alone, especially total suspended solids, should not be sufficient to determine stream impairment for listing purposes.
The water quality standards contain many narrative criteria, including the "free froms" that state that surface waters shall be free from various pollutants, including "scum, froth", "deposits of sludge or fine solids attributable to artificial sources of pollution", visible films from oil and grease, etc. The total suspended solids criterion states, "Suspended solids added to surface waters by artificial sources shall not interfere with the behavior, reproduction, physical habitat, or other factors related to the survival and propagation of aquatic or semi-aquatic life or terrestrial wildlife ." The Commissions recommendation on total suspended solids has been aptly summarized as, "Dirt is not a pollutant."
Recommendation 11. Mixing Zones. KDHE should modify its regulations to ensure that when data are available, actual effects take precedence over models or mathematical calculations. The Commission also recommends KDHE consider allocating the full stream for a mixing zone.
Mixing zones are those portions of the stream or lake where water quality standards may legally be exceededin other words, where the water is allowed to be toxic. I dont see where the Clean Water Act allows any mixing zone. The idea of a mixing zone is that a small portion (up to half the stream in the 1994 standards) is allowed to be toxic under long term exposures, a smaller portion toxic under short term exposures. Supposedly, this allows for a "zone of passage" for fishthough less mobile organisms are stuck. Allowing the full stream to be used as a mixing zone amounts to designating it for use for waste disposal, which is illegal under the Clean Water Act.
Recommendation 12. Monitoring. The legislature and Governor should establish a dedicated funding base to support water quality monitoring, both chemical and biological.
It is interesting that this recommendation is in the report since there were so many complaints that "The reason Kansas waters rank as the dirtiest in the nation is that we monitor so much." We support funding for monitoring.
Recommendation 13. Public Participation. Kansas statutes should include a provision requiring enhanced public participation in the water quality standards setting process.
We support enhanced public participation in the water quality standards process. However, we support a process that involves a wider range of people than have been represented on this Commission and in its invited speakers. KDHE began 1997 with a process that did involve a broader group, and the people who are responsible for this Commission were unhappy with it.
Recommendation 14. Implementation Procedures. KDHE should fully incorporate implementation procedures into regulation.
We were among the first to call for incorporating implementation procedures into regulation. As it stands, KDHE has no accountability for how it implements the standards.
Recommendation 15. Funding. The legislature should place a high priority on funding for an effective and efficient water quality standards setting process.
We also agree with this recommendation.
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Issues, Elections, and the March Appeal
By Craig Wolfe
The Issues Facing Kansas This is the first issue since the new legislative session in Topeka moves into full swing. We wanted to give you a chance to catch up on our Kansas issues in an easy and concise manner. Check out the "Issues Facing Kansas" from page 8 through page 14. Each issue is in the format of an executive summary and is written by either a Sierra Club activist plugged into the issue or Charles Benjamin, our lobbyist in Topeka.
If you are cyber-savvy, we also have these Issue Summaries under the "Issues and Alerts" section of the web page www.kssierra.org. At the end of each Issue Summary will be links to past and present articles from the Planet Kansas. As new articles on an issue are used in the Planet Kansas, new links to these new articles will be created from the Issue Summaries. This area of the web should serve as an excellent resource for all folks interested in what, how, and where the Kansas Sierra Club is fighting to protect our Kansas environment.
Chapter Elections Our election results are in. We would like to welcome new excom members J. Scott Smith from the Flinthills Group out of Manhattan, and Bill Griffith from the Kanza Group living in the Leavenworth area. Another congrats to our new Chair, Craig Volland from the Kanza Group. Craig, our former Co-Conservation Chair, has been leading the charge against Mega Hog Farms, Johnson County water issues, and trade issues to name a few. Other folks elected to continue their terms are Mike Martin, Tom Thompson, and yours truly.
March Appeal Since this is the February March issue of the Planet Kansas, in this time frame you will once again receive our March Appeal. As per national Sierra Club requirements, this is our one opportunity to ask our entire membership to help support our efforts to protect the Kansas environment. This year we have a unique opportunity to make a significant difference in our efforts to support Charles Benjamin and the Planet Kansas, our two big budget items. All the details are being worked out, but at least one "major donor" has come forth and offered a significant sum of money for every contribution received. Stay tuned for details.
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Hog Factory Showdown in the State Legislature
By Craig Volland
Corporate pork producers have geared up to fight the two year moratorium on new hog factories proposed by citizens in Western Kansas. They have rallied around House Majority Leader Robin Jennison of Lane County who is an outspoken proponent of corporate farming. As this article is written the citizens appear to be gaining support from other leaders from both parties in the legislature who understand the high, long-term political stakes involved.
Governor Graves has suspended the issuance of the controversial permit to Murphy Farms in Hodgeman County. However his position on the two year moratorium is unclear. More obvious is KDHE Secretary Mitchell's strategy that is to dampen citizen opposition by issuing a new set of regulations for animal waste management and pointing to preliminary results of the Kansas State University Lagoon Research project. This strategy is unlikely to succeed because (1) the preliminary report is obviously a rush job that fails to inspire confidence in the impartiality of the work in progress and (2) the new regulations fail to address the biggest problem, which is odor. It makes little sense to proceed with any new permits until the odor problem is solved. Industry sources admit that this will take several years at a minimum. Hence the need for the moratorium.
The KDHE had said they would use the lagoon research project to support their new lagoon construction standards. These were released for comment on Oct. 24 and retain the existing seepage standard of 1/4 inch/day. Kansas State Univ. issued their preliminary report on Nov.14, and it contained only five days of data from field measurements of seepage in a cattle feedlot lagoon, i.e. from Oct. 16 through Oct.20. A water balance study is normally conducted for a minimum of 30 days.
It's difficult to understand why KDHE was in such a rush since the results were less than impressive. While they bragged that the lagoon was leaking only 0.1 inch per day, they neglected to mention that the lagoon held only four feet of liquid. Standard procedure is to project this rate to the expected rate when the 10' 8" deep structure is full after a big rain. When full the lagoon would be leaking at or slightly above the state standard of 0.25 inches/day. Hog lagoons are typically 20 feet deep at capacity. Also, two lab samples failed the state seepage standard at the minimum liner thickness of one foot, and high levels of ammonia and microbes passed readily through other samples.
For all practical purposes the new animal waste regulations are business as usual, and the KDHE is not taking citizen concerns very seriously. See below for a more detailed analysis of the regulations.
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KDHE's New Animal Waste Regulations Won't Resolve the Hog Controversy.
By Craig Volland
Odor. Aside from enforcing existing, inadequate setbacks, the new regulations explicitly avoid addressing odor reduction through facility design. KDHE has even inserted a provision that empowers hearing officers to exclude testimony on this issue. The hog controversy cannot be resolved without addressing this problem in a meaningful way, including emissions from barns, lagoons, waste application and sludge piles. Citizens also have a problem with odor and dust from large cattle feedlots that are too close to town. If KDHE feels they don't have authority to regulate the gases and fine particles that cause odor, then they should ask for it.
Lagoon Construction. KDHE continues to allow self certification and keeps the weak, 0.25 inch/day seepage standard. The new design standards allow operators to dig lagoons and count the top one foot of remaining soil as an "in situ" liner. No compaction standard is specified, and no post construction permeability test is required. This technique can be used in clayey gravels, gravel-sand-clay mixtures, clayey sands, and sand-clay mixtures. It's hard to get much compaction below six inches under these circumstances. Analysis of underlying strata down to the water table and assessment of groundwater contamination potential is not required. It's time to cut to the chase and insist on impermeable liners with leak detection.
Waste Application. KDHE already has the authority to require waste nutrient analysis and surface soil testing. Unfortunately operators won't have to provide soil tests before construction to confirm that all the waste can be absorbed. KDHE gives waste disposal priority over waste utilization by allowing operators to apply nitrogen at 120% of crop needs and phosphate at 200%.
Groundwater Monitoring. Arguably KDHE has always had authority to require monitoring of groundwater near animal waste lagoons and application areas. They've just never used it. That's why we have so little data on what's happening near waste control systems in Kansas. We do know that swine lagoons are leaking in other states. In the past KDHE did require monitoring near slaughterhouse waste treatment systems, and that's how we discovered that clay lined lagoons were leaking and contaminating groundwater. New slaughterhouse lagoons must have dual, plastic liners with leak detection while animal waste lagoons must have only a compacted soil liner. We can find no scientific justification for this double standard. By the way, the new animal waste rules say merely that groundwater monitoring "may" be required.
Setbacks. The statutory separation distance between homes and animal feeding facilities may be waived if no objection is received from an owner as a result of the permit notice. This is wrong. An owner may be temporarily absent, fail to see the notice or not understand their rights if they do. Further, waste application areas are not considered part of the facility for the purpose of determining separation distances. Yet they may be an important source of odor. Animal feeding facilities can be placed, and waste applied, as close as 100 feet from a drinking water well. If contamination reaches the Ogalalla aquifer, water users under these circumstances need wait only three to six months for the stuff to reach them. Ominously, the KDHE extends this distance to 200 feet when the operator uses the previously described "in-situ" liner technique for his lagoon.
Facility Closure. The new rules do not ensure that taxpayers will avoid picking up the tab for the clean up of abandoned facilities. The rules merely say that a "plan" must be submitted when the time comes. At no time are operators required to post a bond or financial guarantee.
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Hog Threat Moves East
By Craig Volland
Seaboard Farms Corporation wants to build a new hog slaughterhouse in Great Bend that will process 4 million hogs per year. Art Riedel, of Stewards of the Land, reports that Seaboard expects to help support this facility by getting independent land owners to construct up to 160 hog finishing facilities with capacities of 5,000 animals each or as few as 80 facilities with 10,000 hogs each. Finishing facilities take piglets of about 45 pounds and feed them until they reach market weight. To get annual production, one should multiply the capacity by the 2 1/2 times per year turnover rate. A Seaboard official indicated that they would draw from the "Great Bend Area." If we assume a radius of about 100 miles from Great Bend, this area would encompass Hutchinson, Newton, Salina, Hays, Abilene, McPherson and Wichita. The actual drawing radius would depend on where Seaboard is able to attract people willing to sign contracts. At present Seaboard's Kansas operations are confined to the four southwestern-most counties in the state.
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More On Cars and Fuel Cells
by Wayne Sangster
A recent development in the realm of fuel-cell automobiles, a topic discussed in our last column, is the announcement in December by the Ford Motor Co. that they have signed a tentative agreement to spend $420 million to develop fuel-cell power components for cars with German automaker Daimler-Benz and Canadian fuel-cell developer Ballard Power Systems Inc. Each of these companies will invest $33.6 million in the project. A final agreement is expected soon. "With our collaborative efforts, we think we can accelerate the commercial viability and implementation of fuel-cell vehicles," Ford chairman Alex Trotman said.
Ford announced in April that it plans to build a prototype hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle as part of a research program between the government and Big Three automakers. Ford has said a prototype could be ready by 2000. Chrysler Corp. last January announced plans to have a working fuel-cell car by 1999 and commercial production before 2010. Both Toyota Motor Co. and Daimler-Benz unveiled automobiles powered by fuel cells at the Frankfurt, Germany, auto show in 1997. The latter company hopes to have 100,000 Mercedes cars available with fuel cells by 2004.
Also discussed last time was the desirability of eventually using hydrogen derived from sources other than gasoline carried on board. An article in the January 1998 "Scientific American" entitled "Burying the Problem" (subheading "Could pumping carbon dioxide into the ground forestall global warming?") by David Schneider discussed an idea first advanced by Dutch workers in 1989. Wim C. Turkenburg of Utrecht University explains what he and his colleagues proposed: Oxygen added to the coal would form an intermediate gas mixture that would then be converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide at high pressure by reacting it with water vapor. The hydrogen could then be burned to produce electricity or used in fuel-cell cars, and the carbon dioxide could be separated and sequestered.
Sequestering carbon dioxide as a method of combating global warming is an idea that has been revived. Howard J. Herzog of MIT, for one, proposes pumping carbon dioxide into the deep ocean. The ocean contains at least 50 times as much carbon as the atmosphere, so adding extra carbon dioxide would have a proportionately less effect. Much of the carbon dioxide now finds its way into the ocean anyway and disturbs the chemistry of surface waters. Placing it at greater depths should do less harm because it would take maybe hundreds of years before the carbon found its way back to the surface through mixing.
The sequestration of carbon dioxide in the ground could be done in depleted gas fields. Many natural gas deposits already contain huge quantities of carbon dioxide, so pumping in more isn't likely to do harm. (Such depleted gas fields exist in Kansas and are now used for gas storage, so presumably they could be used to stash away carbon dioxide in the future.)
A prime example of how global warming could be combated is the Great Plains Gasification Plant in North Dakota. It now converts coal to methane gas, a fuel considered relatively benign because it contains less carbon per unit of energy than coal. Carbon that originally was in the coal will be piped to Canada as compressed carbon dioxide to be used for enhanced oil recovery in Saskatchewan. Such separation of carbon from coal and injection into the ground may prove especially relevant to developing nations such as India and China. China alone has more than 10 percent of the world's reserves of coal and will certainly want to exploit it.
Robert H. Williams, who in 1989 wrote a book entitled "Solar Hydrogen," has changed his thinking and now believes that "For most of the next century, I think that hydrogen will be produced from carbonaceous feedstocks," instead of using the electricity produced by sunshine falling on photovoltaic cells to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is already produced from a fossil fuel, since about 5 percent of the natural gas in the U.S. today is routinely converted to hydrogen for use by petrochemical companies or for making fertilizer. This production could be expanded when a significant demand for hydrogen as a fuel for cars, trucks, and trains and for electrical power plants became commonplace.
Difficulties in handling large quantities of carbon dioxide safely and the costs of separation and sequestration are difficult to judge at the present time. An attempt to "decarbonize" fossil fuels may begin as early as 2001 in Norway, where a tax of $53 per ton of carbon dioxide released provides good incentive to pursue alternatives. It may take people on all sides of the debate about carbon dioxide-induced global warming a while to get comfortable with the notion that fossil fuels, if exploited properly, could continue to service society without threatening to change the climate,
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Overland Park Participates in International Climate Conference
By Jay Lehnertz
Since the fall of 1996, the City of Overland Park, represented by Councilmember Jay F. Lehnertz, has been an active member of the Internal Council on Local Environmental Initiatives. ICLEI is an international organization of more than 200 cities that collectively are taking a leadership role in identifying and implementing innovative environment management practices and strategies at the local level.
Overland Park was one of thirteen cities from the United States invited to participate in the International Conference on Climate Change held in Nagoya, Japan, during the last week of November, 1997. As ICLEI's chair, Peter Heller, noted in his welcoming address, the cities that participated in the World Summit represented , 100 million people and accounted for five percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, more than a medium-sized industrial nation.
At the concluding ceremony of the three-day conference, Overland Park was one of 20 cities from around the world recognized for its achievements in the area of climate protection. Among those achievements was the completion of an inventory of energy and emissions for 1990 (the city's base year) for both municipal operations and for the wider community; a forecast that included energy and emissions for 2010 (the city's target year); and the development of a local action plan detailing strategies for reducing or stabilizing carbon dioxide emissions.
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