The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is seeking public comment regarding the nitrate contamination of a city water well.
In a 22-page report, published to the KDHE website last week, KDHE outlines the history of contamination at Greensburg Public Water System Well No.8, a timeline of investigation and clean up and the department's recommended remediation plan.
From 1995 to 2001 testing of city well No. 8 by city officials revealed nitrate levels above federal guidelines. The federal government requires nitrate levels to be below 10 mg/liter for drinking water.
The well, located adjacent to the Southern Plains Farmers Co-Op, south of the railroad tracks, was discontinued for use as drinking water in 2001 and an on-site investigation by KDHE determined that the source of the contamination was a liquid fertilizer storage tank operated by the co-op, then known as Farmer's Grain and Supply (FGS).
According to the report, FGS entered into a remediation and clean up agreement with KDHE in February 2003. Removal of soil, additional testing and a failed measure to remove contamination through pumping were completed through 2005.
Recontamination of the site occurred following the May 4, 2007 tornado, which damaged nearby liquid fertilizer storage tanks.
Additional testing revealed continued contamination and additional soil removal took place in April 2011.
The report also details the investigation by KDHE and geographical elements of the contamination. It also reported that the city has used the excessive nitrate contaminated water from well No. 8 to fill the city swimming pool since the 1990s.
Ongoing research into the effects of excessive nitrates in food and drinking water has led to a number of general accepted theories.
In agricultural areas it is primarily used as fertilizer for crops and in some livestock feed.
Runoff from un-absorbed nitrates can contaminate natural and man-made water sources.
A expansive case study by the World Health Organization in 2010 published a variety of findings relating to the ingestion of nitrates. In some studies, excessive levels of nitrates led to reproductive problems, birth defects and increased cancer risks in lab rats.
The same report suggested that excessive levels of nitrates may contribute to some cancers including stomach and colon cancers.
The University of California Davis conducted extensive research and testing of the effects of nitrates on humans and wildlife in central California farmland.
Their initial findings, released in November 2012, found that an increased level of nitrates in agricultural practices have created comparable increases in nitrate levels found in drinking water and groundwater.
Communities across Kansas have been dealing with regulating nitrate levels in drinking water.
Previously the city of Haviland opted to install water filters in residents house, advising pregnant women and the elderly to limited their consumption of high nitrate drinking water.
Page 2 of 2 - Greensburg has nearly completed construction on a multi-million dollar water treatment plant, located just east of the containment site. The treatment plant is expected to blend and treat water from four of the city's five wells, including well no.8.
"Although it's a great expense, it's something where we can control and provide the ultimate level of maintenance and water quality," said city administrator Ed Truelove. "[The water treatment plant] gives us confidence that we can provide quality water years into the future."
Truelove speculated that the facility would be open within the month.
The report provides three options for remediation of nitrate levels, recommending semi-annual testing and allowing for "natural attenuation" of contaminants, which requires no additional clean-up.
Recent testing, done in June 2011, found nitrate levels ranging from 15 mg/L to 4.14 mg/L at the contamination site.
Results of testing done at the same site in October 2003 found levels as high as 138 mg/L.
KDHE is required to seek public input before making a final ruling on their recommendation for thirty days. Public comments can be made until March 2.
For more information on the KDHE's remediation plan go to: www.kdheks.gov/remedial