For Immediate Release
March 3, 2010

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

KDHE Conducts Tests on Material found in Chanute

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) conducted laboratory tests on particulate material found in a residential area of northern Chanute and has determined that the material is non-hazardous.

On Friday, February 26, KDHE responded to a citizen’s concern about particulate material, described as reddish-brownish flakes or chips, found in northern Chanute. KDHE collected samples of the material which were tested by the KDHE Lab on Monday, March 1.

Results returned Tuesday, March 2 show that the material consists primarily of iron oxide (rust) and trace amounts of other metals, including lead, mercury, chromium and manganese.  No hazardous levels of the metals were detected.  Lab analysis also confirmed that there are no organic compounds in the chips. 

“KDHE believes the flakes appeared to be a rusty scale and may have originated from the inside wall of the upper portion of the Ash Grove Cement Plant’s stack,” said William Bider, Director of KDHE’s Bureau of Waste.

Ash Grove Cement Plant is located north of the residential area affected by the flakes. KDHE has had several discussions with Ash Grove representatives to determine the status of plant operations during the time of the incident.  Records indicate that no alternate fuels were being burned at the time; however, operating conditions related to gas flow velocity and temperature did increase at nearly the same time. These operation changes potentially dislodged some scale from the upper part of the stack.

KDHE’s Director of Health, Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips has evaluated the circumstances of the release and the composition of the material.

“It appears that this release to the neighboring properties should not have resulted in any adverse health impacts to residents,” Dr. Eberhart-Phillips said. 

If residents find flakes in their area, they should dispose of them in the trash. They are encouraged to wash their hands after handling it, as minor skin irritation could arise – similar to any skin contact with rust. 

“KDHE appreciates the cooperative approach to this investigation demonstrated by city and county government officials and remains committed to being responsive to community concerns,” said Roderick Bremby, KDHE Secretary. 

For a copy of the analytical lab analysis, please e-mail Kristi Pankratz at kpankratz@kdheks.gov or call 785-368-8053. For information about the report, please contact William Bider at wbider@kdheks.gov