Water rate hike likely in Hutchinson to clean up polluted water

(KSN File Photo)
(KSN File Photo)

HUTCHINSON, Kansas - The city is warning residents that a water rate hike is likely on the way to help pay for cleanup of polluted groundwater.

City officials says that is the likely solution after a vote Monday night by the Hutchinson school board.

The board shot down a 10-year extension of the funding plan to continue cleaning up a contaminated groundwater site near 4th Avenue and Carey.

The school district was contributing between $70,000 and $90,000 a year toward cleanup, but the board said it would not approve an extension unless it got that money back in some way.

Legally that cannot happen, and the extension was denied.

“That’s what we had hoped to extend and hoped to preserve, the financing, but that is voluntary,” Paul Brown, Hutchinson’s city attorney, said. “It takes the consent of all the parties involved, both school districts and Reno County, and without that consent, we cannot continue.”

20 years ago, investigators discovered the groundwater was being contaminated by residual chemicals to limit pests at the city’s grain elevators.

They had to come up with a plan to prevent the EPA from declaring the area an abandoned hazardous waste site.

The plan used tax increment funding from the affected public sources: Hutchinson, Reno County, and the Hutchinson and Buhler school districts.

Although a rate hike is likely, how much per customer is unknown.

“We would have preferred to continue the existing funding at least to take advantage of the provision in the statute that allowed for the ten-year extension, but the remediation will continue and we’ll be able to handle that,” Brown said.

Any rate hike will not take effect immediately. The city has to review its budget to figure out when a potential water rate hike could take effect.

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