Orphan Sites Program History

The Orphan Sites Program is funded annually from the State Water Plan, for example., the State Water Resources Planning Act K.S.A. 82a-901 et seq. (PDF). The overall objective of the Orphan Sites Program is to provide a mechanism to ensure that the water resources of the State of Kansas are of sufficient quantity and quality to meet the current and future needs of its citizens. The program is based on the "Water Pollution Remediation" policy which "require(s) the State to initiate remedial procedures when a responsible party is unknown or cannot or will not undertake the necessary action. Any person determined responsible is still responsible for the repayment of the costs of the clean-up work."

The Orphan Sites Program is a key program for the department in that, consistent with the guiding department objective of providing protection of human health and the environment from impacts by hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants; addresses contaminated sites for which there is no viable responsible party ("orphan sites"); or for which a responsible party exists but is unable or unwilling to take necessary corrective action measures to address the contamination. The Orphan Sites Program was developed with the specific objective of providing a mechanism to address sites that for one reason or another fall outside the parameters of other programs. The program is designed as a mechanism to balance the need to hold parties accountable for the cost of investigation and remediation of contamination they have caused while avoiding pointless delays and further environmental damage when no responsible party can be found, or when such parties are recalcitrant and uncooperative. There are currently 80+ orphan sites in the Orphan Sites Program.

Program efforts are focused on characterizing contamination problems, identifying potentially responsible parties, evaluating the degree of human health and environmental risk associated with identified contamination, and remediation through cleanup or institutional controls. The majority of sites within the program are being addressed in response to groundwater impacts that have affected public or private drinking water wells. Sites within the program continue to make progress beyond investigative stages and toward remediation. Approximately 14% of the sites currently in the program are in some phase of remediation or are waiting for funding to conduct remedial activities. Sites are prioritized with a scoring system based on health risk to identify sites that need immediate attention. Further, the scoring system provides a financial management tool to ensure that funds are available for continuing with investigations and cleanup evaluations while allowing funding for the more cost-intensive cleanup activities.

The program also provides funding to supply alternate water sources as an emergency response action to residences with contaminated drinking water sources.