Bartlett suspends milling in Coffeyville after flooding

by Josh Sosland
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COFFEYVILLE, KAS. — Awaiting resumption of rail service, milling operations at the Coffeyville flour mill of Bartlett Milling Co. were suspended last week.

Major flooding in Kansas engulfed the town of Coffeyville, leaving a quarter of the town submerged. The flooding came within two blocks of Bartlett’s mills, but the water is receding, said John Gillcrist, president.

"The only problem the mill faces is that there is no rail service," Mr. Gillcrist said July 3. "There was no flooding in the facility, and we have electricity as of this morning. U.S. Highway 166 into Coffeyville is open, so we can begin receiving grain again today, but the mill will be down until rail service resumes. That’s the major impediment. We’re waiting on the SKOL (South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad), which is our major rail provider."

The mill was closed on July 1 after five days of rain caused flooding from the Verdigris River. The mill is located near the river close to the junctions of highways 166 and 169. The latter highway was still closed to traffic as of July 3.

Coffeyville’s problems were exacerbated when a local refinery spilled 42,000 gallons of oil into the Verdigris.

"Water reached within a couple of blocks of the mill, but the mill has never been imperiled," Mr. Gillcrist said. "The city has protected the clean water supply, and the sanitary sewer system also has been protected, though it is not functioning at the moment."

Mr. Gillcrist said Bartlett is meeting its flour commitments to customers without relying on other suppliers.

"That hasn’t been a problem," he said. "We haven’t missed a beat. Our main concern is with employees who have been affected. A couple have lost homes."

A considerable longer-term worry for Bartlett and all hard winter flour millers is the damage the heavy rains are inflicting on the quality of the 2007 winter wheat harvest.

"Obviously there is concern about crop conditions, regardless of the flooding," Mr. Gillcrist said. "For the crop in southeast and central Kansas, quality and test weight are major issues. We’re waiting to get more data and to see more of the state harvested to figure out where proteins will settle and where we will have to focus for origination. The good news for us is that with our abundance of elevators around the state, we have a good feel for origination."

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