City of Wichita pays fine after fish kill

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WICHITA, Kansas —  The City of Wichita faces a huge fine after a fish kill in the Arkansas River last year.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says one of the causes is partially treated sewage.

The agency is playing nice with the $700,000 fine.

The Arkansas River south of Wichita near Hydraulic looked a lot different this time last year, filled with around 800 dead fish.

“I haven’t been fishing that long here but I have from time to time,” explains fisherman Bill Jones.

The partial culprit for the fish kill – partially treated waste water.

Not the news Jones wanted to hear.

“This is a place where you can have fun but I just enjoy eating fish,” says Jones.

But the sewage wasn’t the only problem.

“That in combination to record low levels in the river because of the drought,” said Alan King, Wichita Public Works director. “We also raised the dam to get the river levels up for Riverfest.”

So now there’s a fine against the City of Wichita in the amount of more than $243,000.

But there’s another component, a civil penalty of $455,000.

“Rather than writing a check to KDHE, they are allowing us to apply that money to this condition assessment study that we were contemplating doing that anyway,” says King.

He says the city has known for awhile its sewer system needs maintenance, and had been looking at doing a risk assessment of the system as well.

This fine is making that happen sooner.

“We put in place an additional set of tests to monitor the contaminants in the river above and beyond of what we are required to do for discharge permits just so that we can get a better sense of what is going on in the river and monitor those results,” says King.

So Wichita fishers like Bill Jones can fish easy.

“I’m not a pro fisherman but I can see where it releases a lot of stress out here in this area,” says Jones.

The assessment will cost the city $600,000.

More than $400,000 of that is coming from the KDHE fine.

The city council will vote on the plan Tuesday.

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