Proposed biofuel plant worrying neighbors

Posted: Updated:

Living in wide open spaces is exactly what Sarah Harlan and her family call the American dream, but news of a large biofuel plant opening up in Sumner County could change all of that.  

"My husband and I worked our whole lives to be able to build out here," Harlan said.

Harlan is just weeks away from moving into her new home. It's located on the same land her family has been farming for more than 100 years. She, along with more than 30 families, recently learned that VNA Corporation wants to build a biofuel plant north of Wellington.

The company plans on harvesting natural gas from wheat stalk. It says it will be new source of revenue for Kansas farmers.

"To me, it's a smart move," said Stacy Davis with Sumner County Economic Development. "It's an opportunity to bring in about 50 new jobs, which will have a direct impact of about $4.4 million dollars."

But at what cost? The plant will use 50 million gallons of ground water annually, and even more when it expands.  That's enough water to fill 75 Olympic-sized swimming pools each year.

The Harlans and their neighbors rely on well water and worry VNA's practices will negatively impact them.

"We've got to have water. We've got to have space. Good air quality," Harlan said.

But before the company can move forward, the state will need to run tests to see if there is enough water to support it, and the community. 

"If the water is not there, then they're not going to build here," Davis said. "And they are doing their due diligence, and having those tests done and working with the state to make sure that they are good neighbors."

The company also projects up to 50 semi-trucks will travel along the rural roads each day during harvest season, which is another downfall for the residents.

Next month, the county will hold a meeting and it will vote on the project. Harlan and her neighbors will be there making sure their concerns are heard.

Check out these photos from across KAKEland snapped by our viewers, staff and local officials. Do you have pictures to share with us? Email them to


  • Most Popular Stories

    • OKC Animal Welfare

      Animal shelter wants you to raid it instead of Area 51

      Before you storm Area 51, you might want to make a stop in Oklahoma. One animal shelter is inviting people to storm its Oklahoma City location and pick up some adorable tin-foil-hat-wearing critters to "protect you from the Area 51 aliens." 

    • WPD investigating after man shot, killed in Wichita

      Wichita Police are investigating after a man was shot and killed late Friday night.  

    • Erin Richwine, and her husband, Casey, have been planning their trip to the Dam Music Festival in El Dorado since last year. "Back in October, they had put out a deal on their website, it said the prices won't be any lower than this. Get them now, they're 89-bucks," says Casey Richwine.  Their group bought more than a dozen tickets, hoping to get the best deal, but months later, they realized they didn't. "July 4th, all of the sudden prices dropped to 50-bucks.&...

    • Brady Newman-Caddell (KCTV)

      Man sentenced in rape, kidnapping of Kansas deputy

      A Missouri man has been sentenced to 55 years in prison for kidnapping and raping a Kansas sheriff's deputy.

    • KCTV

      Body of missing 13-year-old boy recovered from Kansas lake

      Authorities have recovered the body of  a 13-year-old boy in Clinton Lake in the Lawrence area.

    • Residents taking advantage of fishing salvage in Newton

      Newton residents are taking advantage of the fishing salvage, where they can fish with hands, nets or rods and reels.

    • Authorities: Missing toddler drove battery-powered tractor to county fair

      A 2-year-old Minnesota boy was apparently so eager to get to a county fair that he drove back himself on his toy John Deere tractor. 

    • Kansans react to new state vaccination rules

      The KDHE says Kindergarten and First Grade students need two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine, and seventh graders and some juniors in high school need a meningitis vaccine. All that, before the fall semester begins. 

    • Family of baby that was cut from slain mother's body still receiving bills for his care

      A Chicago family can’t seem to wake from the nightmare they faced when a young mom was murdered in April and had her newborn -- who died about two months later -- cut from her stomach. 

    • Air Capital Flight Line stores Spirit's fuselages

      Spirit AeroSystems publicly thanked a local group for storing fuselages on their property.