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Cities concerned about feedlot, tainted water

Staff writer

While a beach at Marion Reservoir closed because of E. coli in the water, Marion and Hillsboro decided this week to express concerns about a proposed feedlot expansion near the beach.

The beach at Cottonwood Point has been closed since July 16 because of E. coli contamination, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Nate Herring said Tuesday.

E. coli, a bacteria related to animal waste, can cause sickness and possibly death.

Testing July 19 showed levels had returned to a safe range, but the corps decided to keep the beach closed after a 2-inch rain. Testing this summer has routinely shown spikes in E. coli levels at Cottonwood Point after heavy rains, Herring said.

The corps tests every Monday during the summer. Results from Monday’s samples were not available at press time.

K-K Ranch, owned by Steven Krispense, is applying for a permit to expand a feedlot near Cottonwood Point to allow up to 800 cattle and 565 hogs.

Krispense could not be reached for comment before press time.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment is accepting comments from affected property owners and groups. Because the cities use the reservoir as their public water source, Marion and Hillsboro were invited to comment. The department will consider comments when determining whether to allow the expansion.

During a city council meeting last Wednesday, Hillsboro City Administrator Larry Paine told the City Council if E. coli levels remained high, the city might have to spend an additional $20,000 to $30,000 annually for water testing.

Paine asked the council whether he should write a letter opposing the proposed expansion. Council members Bob Watson and Byron McCarty didn’t want to make a decision without more information.

Paine provided them the information he had and a draft of a comment letter. On Tuesday he said he had received council approval to send a letter outlining the city’s concerns.

Peggy Blackman, director of Marion Reservoir Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies, told Marion City Council on Monday that E. coli levels reach three times the safe amount at Cottonwood Point after heavy rains.

“We’re not wanting to point fingers, but it’s pretty obvious what the culprit is,” she said.

When there are heavy rains, runoff flows over a berm separating the feedlot from a tributary to the reservoir, Blackman said.

City Administrator David Mayfield asked the council whether he should write a letter commenting on the feedlot expansion application. The council voted unanimously to oppose the expansion.

Last modified July 28, 2010

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