Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kansas City Water Department Overflow Control Plan in Development

By Mary Wilson - JC Advocate

Concerned community members have been put at ease, for now, in regards to the plans for the above-ground overflow control program near 87th Street and Blue River. Members of the community gathered for the monthly Southern Communities Coalition on Wednesday, September 19, to hear from representatives regarding the Overflow Control Plan currently being developed in Kansas City. The Overflow Control Plan commits the City of Kansas City to design and implement a new generation of sewer infrastructure.

According to the Water Services Department, since 2002, the City of Kansas City has been in discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to address overflows from the City’s sanitary sewer systems. In December of 2008, the City Council authorized submittal of an Overflow Control Plan to the agencies for approval.
The first step for the 87th Street project is deciding whether it will be an addition of tanks to an existing pump station or a more expansive underground tunnel, which remains to be decided. If above-ground holding tanks are decided to be the best fit both financially and aesthetically, they will hold approximately 20-million gallons of wastewater.  The entire Kansas City sewer system serves 653,000 people, which equals to roughly 40-billion gallons of sewage per year.
“This equals to 6.5 billion gallons of overflow annually,” said Ron Coker, who is a vice president and general manager of Burns & McDonnell’s Water Group. He currently serves as officer in charge for the firm’s projects with the City of Kansas City, leading implementation efforts for the combined sewer overflow control program. “This is significant. This is what the project is about, to reduce that overflow.“
The total project is estimated to cost around $2.5 billion, which will come out of the pockets of Kansas City Water bill payers.
Traditional urban development and conventional methods of storm and wastewater management now threaten Kansas City’s water quality. The expansion of impervious surfaces in watersheds, along with increases in pollutants, has diminished the quality of ground water and the vitality of the soil and landscape. Kansas City’s current control system of collecting, conveying and discharging storm-water to prevent flooding has failed at many levels. The system has not prevented flooding, and in areas of combined sewers, wastewater overflows are increasingly common. When this system works as intended, the wastewater is transferred into the river systems and downstream neighbors.
Because of these overflow concerns the US government issued the City of Kansas City a consent decree alleging that the City is in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (or the “Clean Water Act”). Under the consent decree, the City became the first municipality in the nation to receive 25 years from the EPA and Department of Justice to implement a sewer overflow control plan. The City also paid $600,000 as a civil penalty and will spend a total of $1.6 million for a Sewer Connection and Septic Tank Closure Program for qualified individuals.
According to Terry Leeds, Director of the Water Services Department, the City has embarked on neighborhood sewer rehabilitation projects and has implemented some green solutions projects, such as the Middle Blue River Basin near 75th Street and Troost Avenue.
The site at 87th Street is an old, undocumented dump site. No testing has been done to see what type of waste is buried at the site, nor how much. Depending on what is determined to be present, the whole project could move locations.
“We know that there is some seepage on the site,” said Coker. “Until we can get in there and see for ourselves what it is we are dealing with, we won’t know for sure whether or not this is the location we will be using.”
The Overflow Control Plan and Consent Decree are posted on the City’s website,, and progress on the Overflow Control Plan will be posted as work continues.
Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of a convenience and liquor store going in at 10921 Hickman Mills Drive. After a meeting with the Coalition, the store owners have agreed to go ahead with the plans to renovate the outside of the building in the likes of the surrounding historic theme. Another convenience and liquor store plans to inhabit the old daycare at 11304 Blue Ridge.
Community Interaction Officer Michael Hammer reported that there were no serious problems at The Bay waterpark this past season for off-duty officers. He also promoted the upcoming Drug Take Back event on September 29, at CVS Pharmacy (Red Bridge and Holmes) from 10-2. Citizens can bring old prescription or non-prescription medications to the event to be properly disposed of.
The next regular meeting for the Southern Communities Coalition will be on Wednesday, October 17, at 7 pm at Baptiste Educational Center, 5401 E. 103rd Street in Kansas City.

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