Cleanup on track at fertilizer site; costs minimal to affected cities


Local News

January 7, 2020 - 10:09 AM

Crews have been hard at work cleaning the area of contaminants resulting from a New Year’s Day fire at Mid-West Fertilizer.

Chemical run-off from the fire-fighting efforts into the nearby Neosho River forced Humboldt and Chanute to temporarily close their water plants.

Doug King, environmental health and safety director at Mid-West Fertilizer, is in charge of the cleanup effort.

King said remedial efforts are beginning to wind down and he expects the site to be finished in the next couple of days. 

“We got a good report from KDHE (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) yesterday on both the ground and the soil, and we have another round of tests we are going to do today,” King said this morning. 

King said they were fortunate no precipitation has occurred in the past week to add to the runoff.

Humboldt City Administrator Cole Herder said the remediation costs “are very minimal when compared to what Mid-West Fertilizer lost in the fire. We may have paid a little more than normal to treat the water but nothing major,” Herder said. 

Herder said they were led to believe they would need to release 450,000 gallons of water they had stored on Saturday, but it was a misunderstanding. Tests showed elevated levels of chemicals compared to their past tests, but they were still well below state and federal standards. 

Chanute City Manager Jeff Cantrell said though costs were incurred, they were not out of the ordinary.

“We are going to have to pay some overtime, and we did purchase about $3,000 to $4,000 of bottled water for the community,” Cantrell said. “However, we usually store water for events like this, so I guess you could say we were just replenishing our stock.”

Cantrell said Thursday’s 3-hour shutdown wasn’t a big deal, but Saturday was rough. 

“Our supply was very low on Saturday, because we had not got it recharged yet. We were down for roughly 30 hours before we were able to begin treating water again,” he said. “Fortunately for us, it happened when it wasn’t at the peak of demand. It was a weekend and most of the industrial plants that would be running full force during the week, were mostly closed.”

Cantrell said at first he couldn’t imagine how water could make it to the Neosho River from the store in Iola. On Monday, however, a trip to Iola proved how close the fertilizer plant is to the river.

Allen County Emergency Management also incurred some overtime with the event as they tried to provide resources such as water and support to the cities.

Angela Murphy, 911 services director, and Jason Trego, EMS director, said they stayed in contact with city officials and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment over the weekend.