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LOCAL News :: Environment : Kansas City : Poverty

Kansas City Water Found Suffering from Systemic Pollution

Sept. 21 – High levels of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, cleaning detergents and other chemicals have been detected by federal researchers in the Blue River Basin, located in Missouri and Kansas.
Kansas City Water Found Suffering from Systemic Pollution

by Catherine Komp
New Standard News

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Sept. 21 – High levels of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, cleaning detergents
and other chemicals have been detected by federal researchers in the Blue
River Basin, located in Missouri and Kansas.

The pollution affects about half of the metropolitan area of Kansas City,
and researchers say urban development is largely to blame.

The US Geological Survey, an arm of the Interior Department, has released
a report in cooperation with Kansas City that found contamination "may be
increasing" and that more investigations are needed. The 166-page report
documents a study of the Blue River Basin carried out between 2000 and

Development within the upper basin continues at a rapid pace, increasing
the potential for toxic water quality, according to researchers. The
report states that some of the chemicals examined "likely produce adverse
effects" both for humans and the environment, including "direct harm to
bacterial or aquatic health."

E. coli bacteria, which the EPA states are "a very good predictor" of
contamination in fresh waters, was also found from human, dog, bird and
unknown sources in high concentrations in several parts of the basin.
Samples from two streams running through Kansas City, the Blue River and
Brush Creek, yielded concentrations of 380 E. coli colonies per 100
milliliters and 355 colonies per 100 milliliters respectively.

While the EPA does not set E. coli thresholds for rivers, creeks and
streams, agency spokesperson Dale Kemery told The NewStandard that "if
[these levels] were in beach water, it would probably call for a beach

The EPA's E. coli threshold for the Great Lakes and coastal beaches is 126
colonies per 100 milliliters.

However, neither the report nor the federal officials presenting it at a
press conference in Kansas City elaborated on the implications of the

"That's not my job as a scientist to determine whether or not… [residents]
should go near the water or not go near the water," Don Wilkison, lead
author of the study, told the Kansas City Star. "I'm confident that people
can make their own informed decisions when confronted with the science."

Kansas City is particularly susceptible to water quality problems because
of its combined sewage system, also called CSO, which carries both storm
water and sanitary waste in the same drainage network. During particularly
wet weather, the systems overflow, sending the discharge into streams and

Some 770 cities across the country use combined systems. Federal and state
law requires communities with combined systems to develop plans to control
their overflow.

According to the Kansas City water services website, the city has invested
millions of dollars since the 1980s to study and repair the combined sewer
system, which is more than 100 years old. More recently, in 2003, the city
manager was authorized to begin a long-term control plan for the CSO and
has conducted public hearings on the issue since then. Last May, Kansas
City officials approved $7.5 million dollars for an engineering company to
develop a long-term control plan for the CSO.


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