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WIRE is a grassroots initiative in collaboration with citizens, neighborhood groups, community leaders, businesses and government to identify environmental concerns and work toward improving our local community. The project is funded through a cooperative agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

WIRE is currently focusing on four issues:

Vehicular air emissions are emitted from cars, trucks, airplanes, lawn mowers, and farming equipment.  Air emissions from these sources are a significant contribution to local air pollution.

Vehicular sources significantly contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, responsible for at least 39% of the air pollutants in Wichita's air.  Ozone can cause respiratory problems for those who have asthma, bronchitis, or other respiratory conditions. 

After ozone, Particulate Matter (PM) is the next highest ranking criteria air pollutant in Wichita as measured by the EPA's Air Quality Index (AQI).  Vehicular air pollutants are suspected in cancers, respiratory diseases, and lung tissue damage.  Vehicle exhaust accounts for approximately 39% of volatile air compounds and 55% of the nitrogen oxides emitted into the Wichita air.

As part of the Clean Air Act, the EPA has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which limit the levels of six principal pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment.  Wichita is in compliance with all of the NAAQS, but was close to exceeding the EPA's 2008 revised standard for ozone.

WIRE has initiated an idle reduction program and collaborated with Wichita USD 259 transportation staff to establish pilot projects that would create idle-free zones at selected Wichita schools. By eliminating unnecessary school bus and car idling around student loading and unloading zones, we can reduce exposure to diesel exhaust and air pollution.  As part of the idle reduction project, an air quality education campaign that includes student projects and contests is being developed for students, teachers, bus drivers, and parents to enhance this effort and further reduce idling around Wichita schools.

A similar idle reduction strategy and education campaign is being developed for selected City of Wichita's motor pool vehicles.

The Arkansas River is the sixth longest river in the United States. Its headwaters begin in Leadville, Colorado, and terminate on the eastern border of Arkansas at the Mississippi River. The United States Geological Survey ranks the Arkansas River as the largest river in the U.S. when using the combined criteria of drainage area, length, and volume of discharge.

Arkansas River water quality in the Wichita area is primarily impacted by stormwater runoff during heavy rains which wash sediments and surface pollutants into the river. These pollutants diminish water quality, have led to concern about bacterial levels, and contribute to reduced clarity of the river.

The ELC has focused on stormwater runoff projects along the urban stretches of the Arkansas River in order to create public awareness of the best management practices that reduce stormwater sediments from entering the river.

The first project completed is a rain garden adjacent to the confluence of the Little and Big Arkansas Rivers. The rain garden works as a natural filter through the use of vegetation and design features that slow stormwater run-off, thus allowing for the settling out of sediments and pollutants before they can enter the river. This project also included interpretive signage so visitors to the area can be educated about the use of rain gardens in improving water quality.

In addition, efforts are underway to create similar projects along the banks of the Little Arkansas River adjacent to Wichita North High School. The North High projects would consist of a rain garden and an infiltration trench that diverts stormwater underground. These two projects target stormwater runoff from the areas surrounding the school, including athletic fields, parking lots and roof drains.

In 2009, Wichita generated almost 4.8 pounds of trash per person per day. This is above the national average of 4.3 pounds. Most trash can be recycled, yet nationally less than 34% is diverted from landfills

Many initiatives have been taken locally to encourage or mandate recycling and to make the public more aware of waste related issues. Regardless of these initiatives, trash disposal, recycling and solid waste management continue to be a high priority for WIRE's ELC.

Since many local initiatives involve residential trash, the ELC is directing resources toward trash generated at the workplace. WIRE collaborated with Green Biz Wichita to implement waste/recycling assessments for local businesses.

A waste/recycling assessment is a formal, structured process used to identify and quantify the amount and types of waste generated.  Once the amount of each type of waste is calculated, ELC members work with employees to develop practical ways to reduce the amount of trash that is generated and encourage recycling.

Wichita's Environmental Leadership Council (ELC) is an approximately 25-member committee consisting of volunteers from area businesses, community groups, and neighborhoods. WIRE is continuing to build the capacity of the ELC to ensure they are self-sustaining and able to serve Wichita for years to come.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita

Department of Population Health
1010 North Kansas
Wichita, KS 67214-3199
Fax: 316-293-2605