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Kansas Geological Survey, Public Information Circular (PIC) 6
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Regulatory and Environmental Issues

Until recently, individual counties regulated sand and gravel, crushed stone, and lightweight aggregate operations in Kansas. In 1994, the State Conservation Commission was charged with such responsibilities, providing a uniform set of rules for all non-fuel mining in Kansas, including reclamation. The exception is river dredging, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remains responsible for permitting and production limits.

Most sand, gravel, and crushed stone operations in Kansas do not create significant safety, health, and environmental problems. Improvements in blasting technology now allow smaller charges at stone quarries, eliminating potential damage to nearby structures. Federal Mine Safety and Health and Occupational Safety and Health agencies monitor all mining operations in Kansas. Environmental impact statements are required for all proposed operations. Probably the biggest objections to such mining are concerns about traffic, noise, and dust when an operation is located near residential areas. Because the demand for these resources is often near highly populated areas, the potential for conflict over these issues is great. To deal with these concerns, planners and managers can restrict mining to less populated areas, though that increases the distance from mining operations to the market. Those costs now amount to about $0.10 per ton per mile.

Recently, the environmental consequences of dredging on the Kansas River have become a contentious issue. Environmental organizations and individuals have raised issues related to damage that dredging may cause to the river, such as bank erosion, lessened water quality, and the effect on wildlife. They have also expressed concern about the impact of dredging sites on canoeists and other recreationists and raised issues related to safety, traffic, and noise. Interest in the Kansas River is especially high because it is one of a handful of rivers in the state that are open to the public for recreation.

The consequences of dredging depend, in part, on the nature of the river. Muddy river beds contain large amounts of clay that can absorb chemicals--such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer--that run off into the river, and the agitation associated with dredging might release those chemicals into the river. Because the Kansas River bed is predominantly sand, the chemicals are not absorbed and dredging does not have a significant impact on water quality. Also, because of the lack of clay, very little material collected by dredging, perhaps as little as one percent, is returned to the river, minimizing the amount of turbidity caused by dredging.

State agencies in Kansas are currently studying the recreational potential of the Kansas River and will undoubtedly consider the role of dredging and other issues. It is important to remember that people in the Topeka-Kansas City corridor use more than two million tons of sand and gravel each year. Decisions about the river and mining operations have both economic and environmental consequences. Limiting the amount of sand dredging in the river, for example, may create environmental conditions that society desires. But such measures have an economic cost. Society must decide if those are costs that it is willing to pay.

Sources of Additional Information

Grisafe, D. A., 1977, Kansas building limestone: Kansas Geological Survey, Mineral Resources Series 4, 42 p.

Grisafe, D. A., Ross, J. A., and Beene, D. L., 1995, Non-fuel industrial minerals of Kansas: Kansas Geological Survey, Map M-39, scale: 1:1,000,00.

Grisafe, D. A., Ross, J. A., and Beene, D. L., 1995, Abandoned non-fuel pits and quarries in Kansas: Kansas Geological Survey, Map M-40, scale: 1:1,000,000.

U.S. Geological Survey, 1923, Mineral Resources of the United States, 1920, Part 2 (Nonmetals): Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 529 p.

U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1995, Minerals Yearbook, Area Reports--Domestic 1993-94, v. 2: Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, p. 97-101.

Prev. Page--Lightweight Aggregate, Sand and Gravel

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach
1930 Constant Ave., Lawrence, KS 66047-3726
Phone: (785) 864-3965, Fax: (785) 864-5317
Web version Jan. 1997