Council approves water installation for residents dealing with contamination

WICHITA, Kansas – The Wichita City Council approved a plan Tuesday that would fast track the installation of water lines to residents dealing with contaminated groundwater.

The vote was 7-0.

Just a few weeks ago, 141 west Wichita homes that use groundwater from private wells were notified that the water was contaminated with a possible carcinogen. Those homes were from Central and Tyler Road south to Kellogg.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment believes a now closed dry cleaner caused the leak of dangerous chemicals into groundwater.

Now, city officials have approved a plan of 1.1 million dollars to get the customers connected to the safer, cleaner city water as soon as possible.

“So, we have a process to build water lines much more quickly than normal, and we’re hoping to have that wrapped up by August,” said Ben Nelson, Wichita Public Works Department.

Nelson says nearly 30 homes are close enough to existing lines for immediate connection to city water.

The rest of the homes will have to wait for the new lines to be installed and connected to the city’s system.

“It’s a little bit better peace of mind having city water because of the contamination that happened, now we’ve kinda lost trust in that source,” said Ryan Nett, a homeowner affected by the situation.

The switch-over will move some families to city water that have been using well water for decades.

“We do not presently have water service, water mains have not been extended in there, so the homes that are there are on private wells, that’s where they get their drinking water and what have you,” said Alan King with Wichita Public Works.

While residents will now have to pay city water rates, they consider it a fair trade off.

“I think I’d rather pay for the water than be worried about what’s going on my body or in my body,” said Nancy Haggard, homeowner.

But rather than celebrate the work that is happening, the city is pressing forward to see what else needs to be done, especially with the concern that more issues will arise once those wells are taken out and the contamination travels.

“Well still I think we have to educate the citizens but we have to do some more research to find out the other areas that aren’t contaminated, who’s going to handle paying for those types of things? Will KDHE pay for those and if that’s the case, why don’t we just go ahead and take care of those things today,” said Mayor Carl Brewer.

“I don’t want to come back in three years and go, ‘Oh, we underestimated, we’ve gotta expand the service area,’ because then it’s more costly. Let’s try and get that done right now,” said Jeff Longwell, City Council Member.

Now the cost of that continued expansion for more preventative efforts would be just under 3 million dollars in addition to the 1.1 million dollars for this project. No matter what happens with that though, city officials say that this work should be done by August 1st.

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