The former Farmland Industries Nitrogen Plant located at 1608 North 1400 Road, Lawrence, Kansas, began operations in 1954 and produced a variety of fertilizer products. In 2004, Farmland filed for bankruptcy, and a bankruptcy trust was formed to address the many environmental issues left behind.
When the City of Lawrence acquired the 467-acre former Farmland Industries site in 2010, a commitment was made to manage nitrogen-laden water on the property. The primary contaminants of concern are nitrate and ammonia. These contaminants are elevated in groundwater, soil, sediments, and surface and storm water. To staff's knowledge, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit has been maintained for this site since 1972. Here is the current permit information (PDF).
Historically, nitrogen-laden water was collected and applied to agricultural land across the Kansas River via a network of pipelines. However, because of cleanup activities on site in recent years, about 30 million gallons of water has been collected and stored at the property. This quantity exceeds the capacity of the current agricultural land application system.
Ongoing Farmland Remediation Project
The City has begun the process of reassessing the environmental conditions of the site and hired an experienced environmental consultant to develop a plan that will work towards clean up and closure of the remediation area.
On April 13, 2018, the Utilities Department presented a status update to the City Commission covering the completion of the and goals for future operation on the site. At the meeting, the City Commission approved a $200,000 contract with GHD Inc. The City has entered into this contract with the goal of developing an amended remediation plan that allows for multiple innovative remedial activities.
Since the initial approval, the City and GHD have worked continuously to produce a remediation alternative that may be presented to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). The first step in the approved contract with GHD included site data review and development of an updated conceptual site model. During their development of the static 3D model and detailed review of current systems and monitoring data, GHD and the City have identified data gaps and changes to the site conditions, which prevent the completion of the original scope of work as requested. To address these data gaps, the City Staff and GHD prepared a data gap study work plan that was submitted to KDHE on November 21, 2018. The plan was approved by KDHE on January 23, 2019 and funding for the work plan was approved by the City of Lawrence City Commission at their commission meeting on March 5, 2019.
Until the data gap study has been performed, an alternative analysis and recommendation of remedial alternatives cannot be reasonably completed and presented to KDHE for review and approval. Both GHD and City staff have committed to involving stakeholders and the community at large throughout the process. See below for commonly asked questions, and check back to this web page, as project updates will be posted periodically.
RCRA Permit Modification
In addition to the ongoing remediation efforts for the nitrogen impacted groundwater, GHD has assisted the City in beginning the closure process for an additional permit on the South side of the property, unrelated to the nitrogen impacted groundwater.
This additional permit is a RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) permit associated with the CRS (Chrome Reduction System) unit that has been entirely remediated since the City took ownership of the site. On November 16, 2018, the City of Lawrence submitted a Post Closure Care Completion Certification Report, which was prepared by GHD. The report shows that the City has successfully completed all of the requirements of post-closure care as prescribed by the monitoring plan, supplemental work plans, and applicable sections of Federal regulations. KDHE BWM accepted this Post Closure Care Report on January 16, 2019 and granted permission for the City to submit a permit modification request for a change in the permit expiration date to allow earlier permit termination.
Both GHD and City staff have committed to involving stakeholders and the community at large throughout the process. See below for commonly asked questions, and check back to this web page, as project updates will be posted periodically.
USGS Nitrate gauge at DeSoto
The City has worked in tandem with the U.S. Geological Survey and other local entities to operate and maintain a nitrate gauge at DeSoto to monitor nitrogen concentrations in the Kansas River. The link below shows the nitrogen load put in the river from the temporary alternative discharge operation in comparison to background levels at different times during the year.