Frequently Asked Questions regarding Water Resources in Southeast Kansas

22 Jun 2018



Through the process of exploring poultry for the Southeast Kansas region, Montgomery County Action Council (MCAC) has compiled several questions around the topic of the region’s water resources.  Below are the questions with responses compiled by the Kansas Water Office (KWO) and Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).  As MCAC continues to explore the potential for poultry in Kansas, your questions are encouraged.  Contact Executive Director Trisha Purdon at or call 620.331.3830.

1.  We understand poultry will increase the demand for local water, not just for the plant but also for the grower operations.  Please explain the water study and how you can be sure that we have the capacity to handle both during times of drought?  

Response:  Elk City Lake is the primary source of supplemental water supply during drought in the lower Verdigris basin.  The Kansas Water Office (KWO) manages the water supply storage to meet the demands of downstream municipal and industrial water users through the Water Marketing Program.  Currently, Coffeyville and Coffeyville Resources hold water supply contracts that account for approximately 25% of the available water supply in Elk City Lake, 75% is uncommitted at this time.  The water supply yield of a reservoir is based on modeling climatic conditions from 1950 through 2014 (periodically updated to present).  The drought of record is in the 1950’s and the amount of water available for contract is required to be dependable through the 1950’s drought.  KWO modeling shows that there is sufficient water supply through a 1950’s drought to serve existing users and additional demand from an integrated poultry operation.

Another reservoir in the area with a substantial amount of uncommitted yield is Big Hill Lake.  Public Wholesale Water Supply District No. 4 (PWWSD4) uses Big Hill as their primary source of water, again, through the Water Marketing Program of the KWO.  The PWWSD4 supplies water to seven rural water districts and Coffeyville supplies water to an additional six rural water districts in the region, both have dependable water supply through a 1950’s style drought.  The estimates of grower demands appear to be well within the supply capability in these service areas.


2.  Looking back just to 2012 when our area was put on a severe water usage restrictions, how will the state insure that we do not have these same issues.  I can hardly think that the farms could limit their water intake during droughts, how does this impact citizens?

Response:  The 2011-12 drought was more severe for some utilities than others.  The City of Independence has chosen not to commit to a Water Marketing contract and is thus not eligible to access releases from Elk City Lake.  The City did impose mandatory restrictions and reached Emergency stage conservation triggers in 2011-2012.  The City of Coffeyville, however, only issued a Watch level of conservation during this same period, which only suggests voluntary actions of their customers.  Coffeyville did require some supplemental releases but used less than one third of their annual Water Marketing contract.  PWWSD4 also only reached the Watch level of conservation, again with voluntary conservation measures, during this drought.  Water supply storage in both Big Hill and Elk City was not depleted more than 20% during this time period.


3.  We know that we have both an aging system for water distribution in the rural areas and in some places an inadequate system.  What infrastructure upgrades do you anticipate and who will bear the burden of those costs?  Are there grants/state programs that would allow water districts to upgrade their systems?

Response: Until it is known which producers wish to participate as a grower and their proposed location, it is not possible to know whether an individual system can adequately provide the supply needed.  Each rural water district has a board of directors and typically an engineer that can evaluate whether an individual site can be supported by the system.  Each rural water district also establishes their own rules regarding new connections, rates and other charges.

There are grants and loans available to water supply systems to upgrade infrastructure. The type of grant or loan that an individual water supply system is eligible for is dependent on the system’s situation and that of their users.


4.  Are their areas in our region that our rural water systems simply cannot increase their capacity?  Where are those and why?

Response:  It is up to each individual water supply system as to whether they want to participate in providing water supply to growers.  Rural water district system managers have a good understanding of the areas that cannot handle additional demands and those areas that can.  Individual growers wishing to participate in such a project should contact the manager of their water system to determine if there is adequate supply available at their location.


5.  Will the plant require water from our water treatment facility?  If so then does our City’s water treatment facility have the capacity to add this volume of water to support the plant?  If upgrades to the water plant are required, who will incur those costs?

Response: Based on available information, up to 2 million gallons per day may be needed from the city’s water system.  The city can better answer the amount of additional capacity that is available.  Likewise, the city sets its own water rates and develops financing for its infrastructure.


6.  What is the preferred method of waste water treatment for the plant?  Who will oversee or monitor the waste water?

Response:  The plant has two options for disposing of the process water from its operations:  treat on-site or discharge into a nearby (e.g., Coffeyville) sanitary sewer system.  Given the strength and volume of the anticipated wastewater from the processing plant, KDHE would prefer the plant operate its own treatment plant under its own Federal (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System [NPDES]) and State (Kansas Water Pollution Control) permits.  Note:  the domestic waste from the workers at the plant can and should be directed to Coffeyville’s sanitary sewer system for treatment by the city.

KDHE will retain vigilance that the wastewater meets the limits set out in the plant’s permit and that it will not cause undue harm to the aquatic environment.  This will be done by routine monitoring and annual inspections of the wastewater treatment facility located at the plant.  Should the plant direct its wastewater to a city, the city will receive the same level of scrutiny that the additional waste stream has not disrupted its treatment processes.


7.  What is the KDHE monitoring process for the poultry plant?

Response:  Once we ascertain the types of pollutants expected to be discharged from the processing plant, KDHE will require monitoring on a frequent, e.g., monthly, basis of the wastewater containing those pollutants and leaving the plant.  The results of that monitoring will be reported electronically to KDHE routinely.


8.  What types of monitoring will be in place to protect our waterways from phosphorous and nitrates?  What type of stopgaps will we have to insure producers properly store and distribute litter?

Response: KDHE has maintained a long-term network of monitoring sites on the streams in Montgomery County with a long period of record of ambient phosphorus and nitrates seen in those streams.  Routine monitoring should be able to detect any increase in the concentrations of those nutrients in the streams.  Because the growers will employ a dry litter system, they should only clear their houses once a year of litter. thereby ensuring the litter remained stored under cover.  Once the houses are cleared, we are confident that litter distribution and application will be done with Best Management Practices, so as to not overload litter on any given parcel of land.  Nutrient management plans will be required as part of the permits issued to the growers by KDHE.

Poultry facilities that use a dry litter management system are required to manage the litter so it remains dry.  New confined feeding facilities are required to be located down-gradient from surface water drinking water supplies unless adequate provisions to prevent contamination from surface and subsurface drainage are provided.  Additionally, facilities are required to be located a minimum of 100 feet from any pond, reservoir, stream or wetland.   The facility will be required to have on-site storage for the litter that is protected from precipitation run-on.  Litter generated at a facility will be used as a fertilizer on crop-ground.  Litter is required to be applied at agronomic rates (at a rate where soil and crops can absorb the nutrients) to prevent surface runoff and leaching to groundwater.  Livestock waste cannot be applied closer than 100 feet to any down gradient surface water, open tile line intake structure, sinkhole, agricultural well head, or other conduits to surface water or groundwater unless a KDHE approved alternative setback, such as a permanent 35-foot wide vegetated buffer, as used.

KDHE conducts routine and spot inspections to review the operation of the facility and to ensure the facility is abiding by the terms of their permit and that waste is being properly managed to not pose a risk to surface water and groundwater.  Federal permitted facilities are required to implement a Nutrient Management Plan, which includes routine soil sampling of land application fields to ensure soil phosphorus and nitrogen levels remain at an acceptable level and maintain monthly records pertaining to the disposal of the waste.


9.  What types of tests will be run to maintain the integrity of our waterways?  What will you test for and how often?  Who is responsible for reporting those test results and what could the corrective actions required be?

Response:  The ambient network of monitoring stations will analyze for a broad suite of pollutants, including sediment, bacteria, nutrients, metals and salts.  Monitoring is done on a quarterly basis.  Biological information may also be collected to gauge the degree of stress being felt by the aquatic community in those streams.  If problems are suspected, the monitoring frequency could be increased to gather more data.  Furthermore, the permit for the processing plant may have conditions requiring the company sample downstream from their plant site to determine impacts in the immediate vicinity of their discharges.  Since the data come into KDHE either by our staff or reported by the company, KDHE retains the ability to act on results that reflect potential harm to the environment.  More monitoring or increased levels of treatment are two possible outcomes should problems be detected in the wastewater or streams.

10.    Explain the EPA permitting process for large poultry farms.

Response:  KDHE has been delegated the authority over the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program in Kansas.  Under state law, a poultry facility that uses a dry manure system and confines 125,000 or more broilers, or 82,000 or more laying hens, is required to obtain a joint NPDES and Kansas Water Pollution Control permit.

A facility is first required to register with KDHE; notice of a registration is placed in the Kansas Register to notify the public.  After a registration is received KDHE will conduct a site appraisal of the proposed location to determine its suitability for confined feeding.  If the site is determined to be suitable the applicant will submit a permit application which includes but is not limited to facility site maps, depth to groundwater information, facility design calculations, construction drawings and specifications and a Nutrient Management Plan.  KDHE conducts a review of the proposed facility to determine if all laws and requirements to minimize the potential for runoff of pollutants to surface and sub-surface waters have been complied with.

If KDHE approves the permit application a permit will be drafted and placed on a 30-day public notice to receive input from the public.  If requested, a public hearing may also be held to obtain additional public input.  At the close of the comment period if it is determined the proposed facility meets all statutory and regulatory requirements a permit will be issued.  A permit is valid for five years.