environment | KCUR


Segment 1: Meet the city's expert on illegal dumping.

Cleaning up other people's messes can be a thankless task. But KCMO's illegal dumping investigator is passionate about his job. Hear his story.

  • Alan Ashurst, KCMO Illegal Dumping Investigator

Segment 2, beginning at 16:03: Should music venues be held accountable for the political positions of the bands they book?

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There is so much illegal trash dumping in Kansas City that the city has more than doubled the number of investigators assigned to help clean it up.

The dumps have everything from hazardous waste to limbs and brush.

Illegal dumping investigator Alan Ashurst starts his day like a lot of people, with a stop at a QuikTrip for coffee and doughnuts. "I like the old-fashion doughnut. It’s good."

file photo / Reno County Fire District No. 6

One year and nearly a half million torched acres after the Starbuck wildfire, strong winds blow across a parched Kansas landscape.

In some ways, last year’s experience showed how man-made systems fell short of handling natural disaster.

As March roars in with another dangerous fire season, lessons from 2017 will be tested and Kansas could learn whether it’s better prepared now.

file photo / KCUR 89.3

Kansas regulators have found that more than one thousand applications for new wastewater disposal wells failed to give the required 30-day public notice period.

Since October 2008, applicants hoping to get approval to begin operating wastewater disposal wells have been required to alert the public about a 30-day protest period.

file photo

The Trump administration remains unlikely to back off its plans to ease Obama era restrictions that make it harder for utility companies to burn coal.

Likewise, the federal courts may eventually decide what pollution rules the Environmental Protection Agency can enforce on energy production.

Dry cleaning can leave a really big mess behind.

One of the largest plumes of toxic dry cleaning waste ever discovered in Kansas is just south of Wichita, and state environmental officials are working to make sure people in the plume’s path have clean drinking water.

When it comes to fighting for a cause, some may picture protestors chaining themselves to machinery or going on hunger strikes. But a former journalist in Kansas fought a proposal for saltwater injection wells in a different way: she read a lot of documents and examined the tiny administrative details.

Then: two area researchers on how dogs and humans became friends, then an encore presentation of how a local musician found one family's long-lost Christmas tape at a thrift store.


Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ energy-regulating agency will investigate nearly a decade’s worth of permits it granted to oil and gas companies after learning recently that some wells received permits without meeting certain state regulations.

The probe, announced Tuesday, will determine the number of wells approved since 2008 without the companies giving nearby residents accurate information about their rights to protest the wells.

Atl10trader / Flickr-CC

A good Thanksgiving Day meal requires consideration, preparation and even preservation. Today, we hear food safety advice to help keep uneaten leftovers fresh and to learn warning signs of spoiled items. Then, a local congregation shares why they've made the decision to remove the phrase 'Country Club' from their name and learn about the history of the district the church was originally named after.


The Department of Homeland Security is now taking public comment on a plan to release biological and chemical materials at the former Chilocco Indian School near Arkansas City.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A panel of Kansas lawmakers says the Legislature should follow through on promised funding for water projects across the state.

U.S. Geological Survey

Saltwater injection. Fracking. Enhanced oil recovery.

News of protests in recent months against oil- and gas-related activity in the Flint Hills has drawn fresh attention to these and other terms — as well as some confusion.

Kelly Paratore

In her new book Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, Kansas City-based investigative journalist Carey Gillam makes the argument that the chemical industry — particularly Monsanto — has spent decades deceiving the public about the dangers of Roundup, the popular weed killer.

“Everyone who eats is impacted by this chemical,” Gillam says.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3 FM

Fort Leavenworth isn't just a military base with a lot of historic architecture. It's also a place where you can find one of Kansas' oldest trees.

Just east of the airfield there is a 200-acre stretch of land on a flood plain that's become an accidental wildlife refuge. It's the largest stretch of contiguous forest along the lower Missouri River.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ energy-regulating agency is trying to determine why permits were issued for half a dozen wastewater wells whose operators didn’t accurately inform nearby residents of their rights to protest the wells.

The deficiencies were discovered by a resident of Matfield Green in Chase County who objects to the wells, into which companies can pour hundreds or thousands of barrels of oil- and gas-related wastewater per day.

Cindy Hoedel wants the Kansas Corporation Commission to shut down the wells and make the companies in question redo the application process.

Wikimedia Commons

During the Vietnam War, military conflict in Southeast Asia aggravated flaring social issues back home. Today, we discuss how activism during the war advanced the fight for civil rights on many fronts, and how mass protests then compare to today's resistance movements. Then, renowned biographer Walter Issacson takes us into the mind of Leonardo da Vinci.

Courtesy Kansas Geological Survey

The governments of Douglas County and Lawrence are calling for changes to Kansas regulations amid an energy company’s proposal to pump wastewater into wells in rural Eudora.

Among their concerns, the local officials argue that the public deserves a 60-day protest period — twice as long as the current allowance — when companies seek to operate such wells in or near their communities.

Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said the goal is “good public process.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The fight over an oil-related waste disposal well in Kansas’ Flint Hills has broadened into a campaign to protest similar wells across several counties and lobby lawmakers for regulatory changes.

Bill Anderson / KCUR 89.3

From Mexico to Montreal, the migration of the monarch butterfly is truly Odyssean in nature. Today, we visit with a Kansas City cyclist who is pedaling the butterflies' 10,000-mile voyage to raise awareness for their declining population. Then, we hear stories of America's deported veterans and learn how the practice is affecting the families and communities expelled service members leave behind.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas energy regulators have given the green light for an oil company to dispose of production-related wastewater in the Flint Hills — a plan that had met with resistance from residents.

Initially, blogs were personal online journals; by the mid-2000s, they went mainstream. What has happened to blogging since then? Especially now that all those other feeds started filling our spare moments and our minds?

Then: how climate change may be affecting the nutrition content of our food.


NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology / Flickr - CC

For some, a belief in God and adherence to fact-based scientific research are mutually exclusive. That's not the case for Katherine Hayhoe, who's had remarkable success convincing evangelical Christians that climate change is caused largely by human activity. It could be because she's a conservative Christian herself.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Residents of the Flint Hills on Wednesday took a fight against an oil company to Kansas energy regulators as part of their broader battle to stem wastewater disposal in the area.

They fear that a request from Quail Oil and Gas to jettison up to 5,000 barrels a day of brine near Strong City and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve brings a risk for earthquakes or contamination of local groundwater — claims that the company disputes. 

How are Kansas Citians reacting to the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, and what's next?

Plus, development in the River Market has skyrocketed in recent years. The neighborhood is changing, but is it all for the better?


Anti-pipeline signs greet visitors to Art Tanderup's farm near Neligh, Nebraska.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline, is scheduled to go before the Nebraska Public Service Commission next week, the final hurdle before the agency decides whether the pipeline’s path should be approved.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Urban farming is the trend that keeps on trending. Technically, you can trace it all the way back to the victory gardens of WWI. But now that generations of Americans have left rural towns and family farms for the big city, it might seem surprising that their kids and grandkids are growing food again . . . in the city.

We check in with a few local urban farmers, from KCK to South KC.


Farmer Wendy Johnson markets hogs, chickens, eggs and seasonal turkeys from her farm near Charles City, Iowa.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a cloudy summer day, Iowa farmer Wendy Johnson lifts the corner of a mobile chicken tractor, a lightweight plastic frame covered in wire mesh that has corralled her month-old meat chickens for a few days, and frees several dozen birds to peck the surrounding area at will. Soon, she’ll sell these chickens to customers at local markets in eastern Iowa.

The demand for beef, pork and chicken raised on smaller farms closer to home is growing. Now, some Midwest farmers, like Johnson, are exploring how to graze livestock to meet those demands while still earning a profit.

It's almost impossible to pass through Kansas City's suburbs without seeing an office park. They're so commonplace, we almost don't notice them. But, they're a big part of our suburban cityscape, and someone put them there on purpose. So who did this and why?

Plus, in the 1940s, a Kansas man made one small town into his scientific laboratory. How Roger Barker founded environmental psychology.


Toronto International Film Festival

Sir Winston Churchill is revered as one of history's greatest politicians due to his leadership during World War II, but the British Bulldog also had a soft spot for science. Today, we hear about his rediscovered essays on the environment, anatomy and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Then, we explore the life of John Coltrane with the writer and director of a new documentary about the jazz legend's career.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

The monarch butterfly migration is one of the most beautiful phenomena in nature. Today, we speak with an Overland Park native who is following the migration on her bike, a 10,000-mile trip. Then, we shine a spotlight on Angel Flight Central, a Kansas City charity staffed by volunteer pilots who fly patients in need to essential medical care.