Air pollution testing of Kansas City, Kansas, UPS neighbor underway

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Air pollution testing is underway at plant next to the UPS depot in KCK.

Several UPS workers told the 41 Action News Investigators in September their health is being negatively impacted by emissions coming from the ReConserve plant right next door to the UPS depot. 

ReConserve uses recycled food to make animal feed.

Last February, ReConserve Chief Operating Officer David Luskin signed a 10-page consent agreement with the Kansas Department of Health & Environment and KCK Unified Government.

As part of that deal, ReConserve agreed to -- and did -- install new equipment designed to significantly cut down on air pollution.

Potential fines for past violations were waived as part of the deal.

After the installation of that equipment last spring, testing is now underway to see if it actually works.

On Thursday morning, a man took a cherry picker lift to reach the top of the ReConserve plant while another man was making what appeared to be an adjustment along a catwalk near the top of the plant.

Air pollution testing was expected to take hours with monitors from both Kansas and Unified Government watching.

"We'd been having the complaints from their neighbors and from time to time, we had been seeing emission problems there," said Bruce Andersen of Unified Government.

In September, five UPS workers told the 41 Action News Investigators ReConserve pollution has caused them sinus and lung problems.

UPS driver Tim Larsen took the additional step of getting dust collecting on UPS trucks tested.

It was mostly wood dust.

Larsen said in September the installation of ReConserve's new pollution control equipment last spring has not helped.

"In the last month, it's gotten worse," Larsen said in September.

Past government testing has found problems with the type of air pollution causing ozone called "volatile organic compounds" or VOCs, but not wood dust.

Andersen thinks the wood dust might be coming from other nearby plants including a pallet company which closed a few months ago.

But that plant would not account for the wood dust on UPS vehicles photographed in September.

He did not however discount the possibility the wood dust could be coming from ReConserve which he said has had past occasional issues with particulate or visible pollution like wood dust. 

"We do not want those people down there to be impacted by anything in the air," Andersen said.

Results from the testing on ReConserve's new air pollution control equipment are expected to be completed and available within about a month.

According to Andersen, that equipment cost $788,000 and is also expensive to run.

As part of ReConserve's consent agreement with the government, the company can be fined if pollution exceeds agreed to limits.

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