Proposed biofuel plant worrying neighbors

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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.

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