Douglas County approves sand pit mining along the Kansas River

Douglas County commissioners have approved a sand pit mining operation near Eudora along the Kansas River, despite objections from landowners and city officials.

The commission voted Wednesday to allow Penny's Concrete Inc. to move one of its current dredging operations onto the south bank of the Kansas River on 166 acres northwest of Eudora. State and federal authorities still need to approve the operation, The Lawrence Journal World reports.

Penny's sought the permit after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refused to renew the company's permit for an in-river dredge near the site.

Opponents argued the dredging could threaten private and municipal water supplies, while company officials insisted the sand pit would not endanger public health and safety.

"This affects over 6,000 people in our county, the city of Eudora, and even people outside the city who buy water from us," Eudora Mayor Ruth Hughes said. "What we really need is to just say no to this."

Earlier in the week, the Eudora City Commission urged county commissioners to reject the permit, saying the pit mine and the lake it will create could eventually contaminate the city's water supply.

An engineering study found water in the aquifer generally flows northeast, away from Eudora's wells. Engineer Richard Murphy conceded the mining operation could alter the flow and direct some water to the city's wells but said protections built into the conditional use permit would protect Eudora.

Commissioner Nancy Thellman sided with Eudora officials.

"This is a risk that's too big," Thellman said.

But Commissioners Mike Gaughan and Jim Flory said they accepted the engineering report's conclusions.

"They feel as long as the conditions we're setting are carried out, this can be a safely run operation and not impact the water supply of the city of Eudora," Flory said.