EPA regional administrator visits the Kansas State Fair
By Doug Rich
The Kansas State Fair is an agricultural showcase that attracts visitors from across the region for that reason. On Sept. 13, Karl Brooks, Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator for Region 7, was one of those visitors in Hutchinson.
“The state fair is a good place to see the diversity and the power of Kansas agriculture,” Brooks said during a brief interview with High Plains Journal.
One of the topics Brooks discussed with High Plains Journal was the recent EPA agreement with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to make changes to Iowa’s Clean Water Act permit and compliance program for concentrated animal feeding operations. Brooks said the main change that Iowans would see is that their Department of Natural Resources, over the next five years, will make sure that every feedlot in the state that is over a certain size and discharges to a water basin/river will have a permit.
“That is a basic condition of law, but the state just did not know what the status of those operations were and now they will know,” Brooks said. “We are also using technology in new ways so that the Iowa agency will be able to access a facility and figure out if it is going to have a discharge problem while just sitting in the office in Des Moines and using available mapping technology and available maps. That will spare the operator the need for an onsite inspection.”
In recent years EPA has done aerial inspections of facilities to monitor CAFOs. Brooks said the agency has not used airplanes to inspect facilities in Kansas in the last 25 years and has no plans to do any aerial inspection of facilities in Kansas.
“The agency has that authority but so far we have found, especially in Kansas where cattle are fed in the dry central and western parts of the state, those aerial overviews are not as valuable to us as they would be in a wetter state with a lot more cattle and hogs in a small area like Iowa,” Brooks said.
Brooks said there are no plans to do any flyovers in Nebraska or Iowa at this time.
The Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan that was developed by the EPA, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Livestock Association has been in place for two years. Brooks said over the last two years Wichita, Kansas City and even some of the downwind cities like Omaha and Des Moines have not experienced spikes in air pollution like they used to see in the spring.
“We think that is because landowners recognized how they could do their burning in a way that does not create the same pollution risk,” Brooks said. “We know it has been a pretty dry couple of years so there has not been a lot of burning. Next year will be a new challenge for us so we will do a lot of outreach with KLA (Kansas Livestock Association) and with our partners at K-State to remind people about the smoke management program.”
While at the Kansas State Fair, Brooks also took part in the Celebrity Goat Milking Contest. The EPA team had a discharge problem, however. In this case there was not enough discharge and the EPA team came in last.
Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.