Officials in Humboldt provide more information on water conservation, Neosho River contamination

The Neosho River at Iola, Kansas

HUMBOLDT, Kan. – A fire at the Mid-West Fertilizer facility in Iola was extinguished, however, there’s now concern about possible contamination of the Neosho River, affecting the water supply downstream.

Officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment say chemicals used at Mid-West Fertilizer in Iola may have washed into the nearby Neosho River following a fire on Wednesday. That prompted the KDHE to contact communities downstream right away. Cole Herder, Humboldt City Administrator says “As soon as we learned that we went ahead and filled our towers.”

Because the City of Humboldt has had to shut down it’s water plant, until the contamination is clear, it can’t draw in any more water to replenish what they stockpiled in the towers. And that’s led to city leaders calling for water conservation in the city. “Our response then was to notify our major users, we have a couple of industries in town that use the majority of our water, even contacted a nursing home that uses a lot of water, and asked them to conserve.”

Herder says the first thing they started working on Thursday, was a back up plan, in case the issue lasts longer than expected. Herder says they have enough of a reserve supply now, that with conservation efforts, it should last into Saturday. “We’ve already been in contact with KDEM and other suppliers of bottled water in case we have to use bottled water, we’ve talked to the county about other suppliers that could bring in tankers of raw water for fire protection. We’ve also called in for Chanute and Iola they are ready and standing by ready to respond if we have a fire emergency.”

The other concern, is water pressure. “The issue is if we drop below a certain percentage in our water towers and our pressure drops below 20 pounds per square inch, then we have to implement a boil order, we’re not there yet.”

Herder says he wants to emphasize the water they stockpiled is safe, but still needs to be conserved, and he’s asking the community to limit doing laundry, dishwashing, washing cars, watering plants, and other non-essential uses.

The issue is also affecting Rural Water Districts #9 and 10 in Allen County. KDHE officials are expecting water test results sometime on Friday.