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Pittsburg Given Time to Cut Phosphorus Levels - KOAM TV 7

Pittsburg Given Time to Cut Phosphorus Levels

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PITTSBURG, KANSAS -

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the city of Pittsburg is causing heightened levels of phosphorus in Cow Creek. 
But due to what the city claims is unreliable data, Pittsburg has 13 years before having to lower those levels. 

"First of all, KDHE never did any in-stream sampling in Cow Creek," Pittsburg Dir. of Utilities John Bailey said. "And so, as a consequence, there's no real data."

KDHE wants a limit of 1.5 milligrams per liter for the maximum daily load of phosphorus in Cow Creek. A number which KDHE says the creek has quadrupled. But the phosphorous alone isn't a huge deal. 

"There are no real environmental consequences, no real consequences from phosphorus," Bailey said.

What phosphorus can cause is blue-green algae. Pittsburg has yet to see any blue-green algae bloom in it's water supply. And although KDHE does want the city to lower the phosphorus levels, it has yet to list Cow Creek under a public health warning or watch.

"If you've been concerned about water your whole life, I guess you should be concerned. But nothing's changed," Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall said. "it's not like all the sudden we're not performing at the same level we've been performing at for a long time. It's just [KDHE wants] to make [standards] more stringent. "

And it's unclear whether Pittsburg is even to blame for the elevated numbers. Old mines or other cities could be just as responsible. City officials say Pittsburg is just an east target for the high levels of phosphorus, and there are plenty of contributing factors. Including the high amount of agriculture in the area.

"We're low-hanging fruit for kdhe," Bailey said. "It's very difficult for KDHE to cope with agriculture. Because you have each farmer putting on fertilizer, and how do you regulate all of that?"

"And we need to know exactly what part of it is the city of Pittsburg's responsibility," Hall said. "And then we'll do whatever we have to to mitigate that."

KDHE officials say they're asking all major wastewater plants around the state to lower phosphorus levels.

Pittsburg has until 2028 to collect data on the cause and source of the heightened phosphorous levels. 

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