WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, questioned the President-elect’s nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, Wednesday about the EPA’s proposal that Pretty Prairie, Kan. construct a new $2.4 million water treatment facility.

 “Too often it is simply out of the question economically for a rural community to meet stringent EPA regulations and mandates,” said Moran. “I am concerned that a heavy-handed approach from the EPA will lead to an increase in water rates for Pretty Prairie residents, which will especially hurt those living on a low or fixed income. This a clear example of an instance where the best possible decisions are made at the local level. I look forward to working with Attorney General Pruitt and the next administration to make certain we are working closely with our rural communities in providing safe drinking water without burdening them with unreasonable mandates.”

Pretty Prairie - a Reno County town of just under 700 people, has been providing free bottled water for approximately two decades to at-risk residents due to high nitrate levels in the city’s water.

State and federal regulators have expressed satisfaction with the city’s bottled water arrangement, which has enabled the city to avoid construction a water treatment facility that would cost approximately $2.4 million and raise residents’ base water rates from approximately $16-22 per month to an estimated $80-100 per month.

The EPA’s maximum limit on nitrates in drinking water is 10 ppm. Pretty Prairie’s water has been found to contain 20 ppm, leading to the city providing free bottled water for residents.

Highlights of Sen. Moran and Scott Pruitt’s exchange may be found below.

“I want to highlight a small town in Kansas named Pretty Prairie – typical name, perfect name for a town in our state. Pretty Prairie, Kansas, has a population of about 700 people. For several decades because of… high levels of nitrate in the city water system, the city has provided free bottled water to its citizens. My question to you is, now the EPA is disallowing that practice and requiring the city to spend approximately $2.4 million and raise the rates of our residents of that community by $80 a month while the community seemingly is satisfied with the solution of the city providing an alternative to the expense of a new water treatment plant. I ask this question again as an example of where a rigid decision as compared to a community-based decision seems to prevail at the EPA… You as an Oklahoman, me as a Kansan, and many members on this committee represent lots of communities in which the population is insufficient to be able to pay for the cost of water or sewer treatment. We need financial resources to accomplish that, but we also need commonsense solutions to the problem.”

Scott Pruitt said he looked forward to working with Moran on the issue. "There’s a saying in the environmental space: ‘national standards, neighborhood solutions.’ I think it’s important for the EPA Administrator, those in Washington… to listen and learn from those, from you, with respect to the needs of your community and your state, and collaborate with you and the local officials to achieve good outcomes.”

Kansas Agland Editor Amy Bickel's agriculture roots started in Gypsum. She has been covering Kansas agriculture for more than 15 years. Email her with news, photos and other information at abickel@hutchnews.com or by calling (800) 766-3311 Ext. 320.

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