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New controversial state policy reduces regulations on pollutant spill reporting: 'It is going to be detrimental to the health of the community'

"What they've done is best for the corporations, not for the communities."

"What they've done is best for the corporations, not for the communities."

Photo Credit: iStock

A new Kansas policy is loosening pollutant spill reporting rules — at the environment's expense.

What's happening?

Kansas just changed its rules for reporting pollutant spills. Now, small spills no longer need to be reported to state environmental regulators, according to NPR.

Previously, companies had to alert the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) about spills of any size. But under the new policy, only spills above certain thresholds require reporting.

For example, oil spills under 25 gallons or liquid fertilizer spills under 100 gallons can now fly under the radar — unless they impact state waters or happen repeatedly.

Why is this new rule harmful?

While the KDHE says this aligns Kansas with federal standards and neighboring states' rules, some residents worry it favors industry over community wellbeing.

"What they've done is best for the corporations, not for the communities," one neighborhood leader in Wichita, where many recently learned they live above a 2.9-mile contaminated groundwater plume, told NPR.

"It is going to be detrimental to the health of the community," they added.

Even if small spills go unreported, companies are still technically required to clean them up. But without oversight, experts say the pursuit of profits could trump environmental cleanup.

The change stems from a 2021 state law directing KDHE to set minimum reporting levels. Agricultural industry groups, who later gave input on the specific thresholds, supported the legislation as reducing "confusion" and excessive reporting of low-risk spills. 

What's being done to reverse this rule?

KDHE expects the new rules to reduce spill reports by 10–25%. But those frustrated by the policy change want to ensure all spills get addressed, not swept under the rug.

Make your voice heard by contacting your state legislators. Share how you feel about prioritizing industry interests over public transparency and environmental safety.

Support community groups working to hold polluters accountable and get neighborhoods the cleanup help they need. Donate, volunteer, or spread the word to raise awareness.

Most importantly, keep an eye on your local environment. Notice any suspicious substances in your soil or waterways? Don't hesitate to alert authorities. Your vigilance can help catch unreported spills that threaten your community's health.

Together, we can demand that policymakers put people and the planet over polluter convenience. Small spills can add up to big problems — and Kansans deserve to know what's happening in their own backyards.

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