Farmland Industries Fertilizer Plant
The former Farmland Industries Nitrogen Plant located at 1608 North 1400 Road, Lawrence, Kansas, began operations in 1954 and produced a variety of fertilizer products. In 1993 Farmland Industries began addressing numerous environmental issues at the facility through a Consent Order issued by KDHE, including the operation of a long-term groundwater recovery system. In 2002 Farmland filed for bankruptcy, and a bankruptcy trust was formed to address the many environmental issues left behind.
In 2010 the City of Lawrence acquired the 467-acre property and pursued negotiations with KDHE and EPA for clean-up. The Consent Order was implemented on September 29, 2010. The City of Lawrence continues to operate and maintain parts of the active remediation systems, which include groundwater recovery wells with detention overflow ponds; however, the groundwater sumps and interceptor trenches were shut down in 2017 due to issues with the onsite storage tanks and a reduced demand for fertilizer-enriched water. Because land-application of extracted groundwater is no longer sustainable, the City of Lawrence began the process of establishing a new remediation methodology in 2020 by completing a Data Gap Study to determine an optimization strategy for the current hydraulic containment system, and to gather data to develop new remedial alternatives. This was followed in 2021 by a Cost Benefit Analysis proposing remedial alternatives.
Currently, extracted groundwater is routed to the overflow/treatment ponds, and is discharged to the Kansas River under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit, and/or the Kansas River Wastewater Treatment Plant (KRWWTP). This receiving wastewater treatment plant is currently undergoing upgrades to ensure the facility can address the increased nitrogen load anticipated from the new proposed remedy and accommodate future community growth for the long term. Throughout this multi-year process, groundwater across the site has been monitored for nitrogen in the forms of ammonia and nitrates/nitrites and will continue to be monitored in the future. This robust long-term dataset will aid City of Lawrence in preventing the KRWWTP from being overwhelmed while it is being upgraded, as well as monitor the performance of the groundwater extraction system in place.
In addition to off-site treatment, the City of Lawrence is also implementing Best Management Practices as part of the larger site redevelopment into the new City of Lawrence Municipal Operations Campus. These practices include impermeable and vegetative caps over portions of the land area, and phytoremediation. The latter practice employs vegetation (usually native) to uptake the nitrogen as a nutrient in the soil, as well as reduce the amount of rainwater that would carry the nitrogen compounds down into an aquifer (i.e. infiltration).
The Proposal of Remedial Alternatives was prepared in 2021 by GHD on behalf of the City of Lawrence and approved by KDHE in 2022. Because the proposed remedy reflects a deviation from the original selected remedy (Corrective Action Decision, February 2010), an Explanation of Significant Difference (ESD) was issued by KDHE and executed on October 28, 2022.
Brian Willard, KDHE-BER Project Manager
- Explanation of Significant Differences, October 2022 (pdf)
- Proposed Changes to Remedial Alternatives, June 2022 (pdf)
- Cost-Benefit Analysis Report, April 2020 (pdf)
- Data Gap Study Report, Part 1/2, March 2020 (PDF)
- Data Gap Study Report, Part 2/2, March 2020 (PDF)
- Remedial Design/ Remedial Action Plan, September 2012 (pdf)
- Corrective Action Decision (KDHE) (PDF)