By Mike Gilmore
Hi, Neighbor! Newspapers
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has ordered the City of Larned to correct equipment and procedural deficiencies at its wastewater treatment facility.
A special work session including city administrators, city council members and wastewater plant staff was convened Wednesday evening with KDHE representatives to hear the city’s plan to remedy defective equipment, non-compliant sampling procedures and staffing issues at the wastewater treatment plant dating back to the spring of 2016.
According to the KDHE order, dated Oct. 23, KDHE informed
city officials on several occasions it was in violation of provisions of its five-year pollution control permit issued by the agency on May 1, 2016 with an expiration date of April 30, 2021.
The order stipulates that the city had 30 days to develop correct sampling procedures and remit any unsubmitted discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) obtained by facility employees. DMRs, are a record of measured contaminants, such as E.Coli bacteria, which are statutorily limited by the state.
In the case of the Larned facility, DMRs are generated by a Salina testing company from regular monthly samples taken by facility staff. The order noted that not only were several missing monthly samples on record during the first three months of 2018, but also that KDHE had notified the city of limit violations dating back to February 2016.
The order also stipulated that the city was notified several times during that period, equipment deficiencies were observed and reported that had been improperly maintained that prevented compliant discharge.
The order stipulated that the city had 60 days to demonstrate a plan of maintenance and repair of equipment, beginning with the bar screen system as the first stage of treatment. The city would also have to fix or replace non-functioning UV disinfection trains so that all were operational; repair the grit system; repair belt filter press; influent flow valves and blower number one.
The order also stipulated that due to the nature of prior findings of fact and current equipment conditions, that the city would be required to pay a fine of $23,000 for statute and permit violations.
The order also provided for an appeal hearing to be scheduled within 30 days of receipt.
Work session – At the work session, City Manager Brad Eilts informed KDHE and the council that upon receiving the administrative order, he began assembling a troubleshooting team with assistance through the Kansas Municipal Utilities agency that included the former wastewater plant design engineer and a KDHE certified Class IV plant operator. Contacts with vendors for replacement or repair of components was begun, as well as a plan to correct procedural deficiencies that included staff training.
Dale Vanderhoof, a McPherson wastewater consultant under contract with KDHE, was retained to take over management of the Larned facility as of Tuesday. Eilts explained that Vanderhoof would be tasked with training existing staff as well as assuming management duties requiring a Class IV treatment facility operator.
Vanderhoof, who was present at the meeting, told the KDHE and council that the facility as constructed was state-of-the-art, and that the challenge was to provide adequately trained staff and proper maintenance.
“I have found that in cases like this, the challenge is to determine the right priorities that will make the most impact,” Vanderhoof said. “It is usual that 20 percent of the right decisions will correct 80 percent of the problems.”
Vanderhoof noted that the city has begun advertising for a Class IV wastewater treatment operator, adding that at leasst two management-level operators should be on staff to avoid lapses of performance.
The city plans to appeal the order in challenge of the civil penalty by Nov. 23, Eilts noted. “It is our hope that putting the staffing and training plans in place will demonstrate our diligence,” Eilts said.
Equipment repairs – beginning with the bar screen — will most likely take longer than the allotted timeline, Eilts said. “We are effecting repairs as soon as possible, but that is part of the process that will take some time,” he said. Vanderhoof will remain as facility manager throughout the remedy process, which could extend well into 2019.