Another Wichita neighborhood to be connected to city lines

Residents say groundwater contamination is spreading

WICHITA, Kansas – Another Wichita neighborhood will be connected to city lines.

Residents who live on Rolling Hills Court in West Wichita filed a petition to be added onto the city’s water because they say contamination is spreading.

While the neighborhood north of Maple and west of Tyler is not designated within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s contamination zone discovered in the spring, the Wichita City Council voted in favor Tuesday of adding the ten homeowners on Rolling Hills to the current water line project.

Residents tell KSN they are “close enough” to the area that it is concerning.

Sharon Morrison has lived in her house for more than 20 years. She lives just a couple of houses down from the KDHE contamination plume cutoff.

“This groundwater that is contaminated will spread. It will continue to spread,” said Morrison. “If the city knows that, it bothers me that they won’t take care of their citizens. It’s a small block,” she continued.

Donald Fuchs also lives on Rolling Hills Court. He has for decades.

Fuchs was told that his water well has some contamination, but it is currently “within limits.”

“If the city or the state is not going to pay for ours, I guess I’ll have to pay for it myself,” said Fuchs. “Why can’t they just come down and take care of us? We’re going to be next, I’m sure,” said Fuchs.

KSN reached out to representatives at KDHE who say the plume has not shifted west.

“We’re continuing to monitor the area of concern, but the plume has not moved according to our data,” said Ashton Rucker, with the Office of Communications. “We’ve done testing in that neighborhood and all of it came back either below [levels], or non-detect,” said Rucker.

“[It] makes sense to do it now. It certainly saves those folks some dollars getting all that work done at once,” said Jeff Longwell, Wichita City Council member for District 5. “What we are recognizing now is that some of this contamination may go back 25 years; we don’t know exactly,” continued Longwell.

Residents who signed the petition argue it doesn’t save them enough money.

Rolling Hills homeowners told KSN that the nearly $60,000 project falls too heavily on their shoulders in the form of special assessment taxes.

“You pay taxes and you hope the city will take care of you and when they don’t, then you have to do it,” said Morrison.

“They’re going to wait until we start getting real contamination then they’re going to come in and, of course, we’ve already taken care of the expense of putting in the line,” said Fuchs.

Residents also told KSN that when they go to resell their homes, they don’t want water to be an issue, so they feel obligated to pay the specials.

The chemical, PCE, identified in the contamination area, has been used in dry cleaning businesses across the United States for decades. There are sites like the one in West Wichita in every state.

The EPA reports thousands of cases of PCE contamination in drinking and groundwater supplies.

One tablespoon of PCE can contaminate 400,000 gallons of water, which is equal to two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

To watch Tuesday’s City Council meeting in its entirety, click here.

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