Chloride contamination a threat to Wichita water supply

SEDGWICK, Kansas – Wichita’s water supply is facing contamination. It should take about ten years for a chloride plume to get into the Wichita water wells.

“Sounds like a long time, but we have to face this now,” says James Clendenin, with the Wichita City Council.9D055BC09D5B415CB0DD2DD08A839826 copy

A new report out from the United States Geological Survey, points to a chloride plume that is moving towards Wichita’s water wells.

What does Wichita do?

The plan is to spend up to $250 Million to keep the chloride away.

“We pump more water into the area, and research shows that will help,” continues Clendenin. “It’s something we’ve already known. The (USGS) report is actually a result of our due diligence in finding out exactly what we are looking at. And, what would need to be done to slow it. And slow it (chloride plume)  is really the term we need to use because we are not going to be able to stop it.”

Wichita has a “recharge” system in place near the water well field. When the Little Arkansas river is running high enough, they pull up to 30 Million gallons of water a day from the river. That water is treated and pumped into the well field, underground.

But, the city wants to double that recharge capacity.

“This (chloride plume) has been going on since the 1930′s,” says Wichita Public Works Director Alan King. “That’s one of the reasons the first (recharge)  project went in, was to keep the plume from creeping in. The USGS (study) shows… putting water into the aquifer, it slows the migration of the chloride plume.”

King says the study shows more water will, indeed, slow the contamination, but will not stop it for good.

The city is also considering desalinization of the water, but that would be years away.

Voters will get to decide the water issue in a vote, come November.

City leaders are asking for a one cent sales tax increase. The tax would raise about $400 Million. Roughly $250 Million would go to the water plan.

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