KANSAS CITY — The state Department of Natural Resources has begun an investigation into spills at a Kansas City pumping station that have plagued area residents for three years.
The Kansas City Star reported Friday that the spills at the Kansas City Water Services Department pumping station have involved tens of millions of gallons of sewage over three years, but that the cleanup did not get underway until this week.
"If we had had any indication of the seriousness or the magnitude of the situation, we would have been out there sooner," DNR spokesman Judd Slivka said.
He said investigators have ordered Kansas City to turn over all its documents on the station and told the city it is responsible for cleaning up the mess.
Assistant City Manager Rich Noll, who is acting water services director, said his office was "doing what we can to address the unpleasantness."
Recently, at least 300,000 gallons of sewage spilled out of the station on May 13 and 100,000 more gallons a week or so later, according to city officials.
DNR officials said they believed those discharges might have been bigger, and their preliminary estimates showed that millions of gallons of raw sewage have sloshed onto land surrounding the station over at least three years.
The spills have concerned the approximately 220 residents of the nearby village of Birmingham, who said they have been complaining to officials with little or no response.
Bryan Spragg, who lives about a quarter-mile from the station, said he spent months calling the Water Services Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, but got no response.
"I got hem-hawed around," he said.
Residents said sewage ran out the west side of the station and sometimes even out its garage door. They said tree trunks and ground were blackened with sewage. Toilet paper was strewn throughout a brushy area, and piles of feces could be seen.
The trigger for this week's action appears to have been complaints from Birmingham police chief Tony Seymour to Gov. Jay Nixon's office.
The station is just north of the Missouri River. Most of the Northland sewage drains through the station to a wastewater treatment plant about three miles south, city officials said. The station helps propel the sewage to the treatment plant.