Syringe dump, spooked cattle and lake dam on ‘fix’ list


The Marion County Commission had to consider several problems Monday that have developed, including medical waste dumped in a cistern on the courthouse grounds, cattle spooked by the Labor Day fireworks at the county lake, and how to fix the county lake’s dam to meet state requirements.

Sheriff Lee Becker discovered the problem with the cistern late in August when he raised the lid to look into it after noticing concrete crumbling on its exterior slab.

When Becker looked into the cistern with a flashlight he found that used hypodermics and pharmaceutical bottles had been dumped in it along with dirt.

David Brazil, county sanitarian, health director and transfer station manager, said the items probably were disposed of by the county’s own health department in an earlier era.

Brazil has traced disposals of both the health department and the emergency medical department from records and discussion with long-term personnel, and discovered the disposals probably were made more than 15 years ago.

Brazil has been in contact with the state’s Bureau of Waste Management in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Brazil said the state will require Marion County to package waste from the cistern in 55-gallon sealed drums for hauling to a regular municipal waste landfill, where the drums will be buried under a waste authorization approved by both the state and the landfill.

Location of the barrels will be recorded at the landfill.

After removing waste, Brazil said the state will want the floor of the cistern crushed so water can flow through it.

Asked by commissioners how large the cistern was, Brazil said it was very large, bigger than the commission room itself.

“I’ve seen cisterns as big as a two-story house,” he said.

There was some discussion of delaying cleanup, but Commissioner Bob Hein said, “I think we better just get it cleaned up right away.”

Commissioner Leroy Wetta said he would like to see removal of the waste contracted through a certified hazardous material waste company to ensure that it is done correctly with no conflict with the state.

Brazil suggested the material be removed mechanically because, “I wouldn’t want to send anybody down there to pick up hypodermics.”

The commissioners agreed that once the waste is gone, filling in the cistern, and covering it could be done by the county road and bridge crew.

Commission Chairman Howard Collett asked about a progress report in the near future on the status of commercial and demolition waste brought to the transfer station on loads from municipal trucks.

Brazil said the waste still is under discussion between Jim Kaup, Topeka attorney representing the county on solid waste matters, and the cities.

Mick Summerville, who backgrounds beef cattle for feedlots about a half-mile from the Marion County Lake dam, told commissioners that cloud and wind conditions during the Labor Day fireworks display were just right for loud fireworks explosions to cause milling of cattle-and that resulted in the death of one 700-pound animal he had fed since June.

Summerville said, “I probably enjoy the fireworks as much as anybody else, but I probably should have been here three years ago to ask you about moving them.

“I thought, and hoped, that maybe I could get by with the feedlot nearby, but we’re just too close to the lake for fireworks.

“I thought when you decided not to have the fireworks that maybe I was off the hook. But since it’s still done on county property, I guess it’s still your jurisdiction.

“Two years ago the cattle were moving, and hitting the fence too, but I didn’t lose any. I purposely didn’t get any new cattle in for the last month so they would all settle in.”

Summerville replied to questions from commissioners that the cattle don’t react badly to thunder and lightning or skeet shooting at the lake, but they do mill if a hail storm starts dumping on building roofs.

He said he had been unable to secure one-day insurance against the fireworks from his agent.

Summerville said the fireworks “looked pretty” over the water, but he would like to see them moved to another location such as the football stadium in Marion to avoid larger losses that he might not be able to absorb.

Collett said such a move probably would result in complaints from pet owners in the city.

Hein said the commissioners would have to consider carefully what to do to avoid interests’ clashing over the fireworks.

One suggestion the commissioners came up with was to require liability insurance on the part of parties in charge of the fireworks.

The commissioners, accompanied by Road and Bridge Director Gerald Kelsey, recessed for travel to Marion County Lake dam, where the meeting was resumed with Consulting Engineer Norman Roelfs of the Wichita firm, NLR&GB Co.

Roelfs was with Dale Snelling, lake and park director, who has worked on developing a plan to meet state construction requirements on the dam that will downgrade it from its present state rating as “hazardous.”

Wetta said the state wants a plan that will avoid any large volume of water, such as in a 100-year flood or in the flash-flood disaster on the Kansas Turnpike last week, from washing out the end of the dam instead of being directed through the spillway.

Snelling said the road surfaces at both ends of the dam, especially the south end by the spillway, are below the elevation they should be possibly in part due to years as gravel surface with repeated road grading sloping downward in curves at the ends.

Roelfs came up with several plans to couple raising the road surface with a berm or wall behind or tying into the west-side stone barriers and the existing hillside to the southwest behind the dam.

About two to three inches of dirt accumulation on either side of the dam-road surface would have to be removed, particularly on the east side to expose “weep holes” through the stone wall that carry water off the dam, Roelfs said.

He predicted that dirt or asphalt fill for the road could be in the range of 114 cubic yards on the north end and 127 cubic yards on the south end with more required at the south to gradually taper the surface to the spillway.

Wetta said the spillway’s original construction took it down to limestone bedrock with a concrete slab further to the west that both reinforce it to resist washing.

The commissioners authorized Roelfs to come up with a final plan for approval by the state that would include an earth-berm “wall” behind the west-side dam posts beginning with the third post from the south, and tying into the hillside to keep water from running behind.

The work would be done by the county’s road and bridge crew. The crew would raise the road surface about 6 inches with cold-mix asphalt.

JoAnn Knak, emergency medical service director, reported 66 ambulance calls in August: 19 from Hillsboro, 20 from Marion, 22 from Peabody and five from Tampa.

They included 14 transfers, two cardiac, 11 medical emergency, nine stand-by, primarily for fires, one vehicle accident, nine falls, 18 transports, and two rescue truck.

The 12 first-responder calls included three from Goessel, five from Lincolnville, one from Durham and three from Burns.

Knak said that long ago Goessel had dropped ambulance for first-responder status under a “gentleman’s agreement” with service out of Newton that customers could choose service from Newton or Hillsboro. Now Newton is dropping that service because of budget constraints, she said, and will serve Goessel only in emergencies.

Knak said two EMS students from the current class have had to retake examination.

Knak said she has been notified by Medicare that the county will have to go 18 months to two years before receiving any increase in the $195 for ambulance runs for Medicare patients.

The former county base rate for an ambulance run for non-Medicare patients has been raised from $250 to $450, she noted.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said she has been notified by Dan Hall of B.G. Consultants, working on the courthouse renovation project, that damage done to the courthouse parking lot by the “feet” of a large crane used to work on the tower probably will need more than just patching to bring back to condition.

Collett said the commissioners should insist on restoration of the lot, which recently was upgraded from dirt to hard-surface, to original condition.

“Aesthetics are important as a public expression of goals and aspirations,” he said.

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