Russell City Council Approves Consent Agreement, Final Order with KDHE

Russell City Council 5-4-21
Russell City Council 5-4-21

The Russell City Council met Tuesday and approved a Consent Agreement and Final Order with KDHE in regards to wastewater discharges.

On December 24, 2020, the City of Russell received an Administrative Order from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment alleging unapproved discharges of wastewater into the unnamed tributary commonly referred to as Fossil Creek with a monetary penalty of $32,500, according to City staff.

The first alleged unapproved discharge was on October 30, 2019 and came from the cooling towers at the power plant. The second alleged unapproved discharge came from the sedimentation basin at the water production facility. KDHE stated neither facility has a National Pollution Elimination Discharge System permit, as such was not permitted to discharge wastewater.

City staff was aware of the discharge in October 2019 and November 2019 as they were on the ground with KDHE after each release. City staff made physical changes at both locations, only allowing discharge to the sanitary sewer. KDHE was notified, in writing of these changes, on November 15, 2019.

The receipt of this order predicated on a notice of potential violation, discussion, clarification and resolution. City staff reviewed the order and reached out to KDHE to discuss the allegations, findings of fact and conclusions of law within the order.

Specifically, the discharge from the water production plant was raw water from Big Creek and the discharge from the cooling towers has been the standard of practice since the early 1900s.

City staff requested supporting documentation related to the allegations from KDHE.

On December 17, 2020, following discussions with KDHE and a review of supplemental documentation, the City filed a Notice of Appeal and Request for Hearing.

City staff reviewed KDHE’s internal Water Quality Guidance Memorandum and proposed a settlement agreement where the cooling tower discharge remain in an administrative order but change the willfulness and cooperation factor from normally cooperating to exceptionally cooperative, achieved compliance immediately on their own initiation and no indication of willful violation. Also, that the water production facility discharge of raw water be removed from the order and replaced with a warning or directive letter. Directives can be used to correct minor problems that do not warrant an administrative order.

On April 12, 2021, the City received a Consent Agreement and Final Order as a settlement in the matter that is in the best interest of the parties. The settlement includes a penalty reduction from $32,500 to $17,350, which is in line with the proposal submitted by the City.

Also Tuesday, the Council discussed sewer tap permits and charges and remote participation in Council meetings policy with no action taken.