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City council approves water mains for contaminated area

By Lauren Seabrook, lseabrook@kwch.com
Published On: May 06 2014 04:51:38 PM CDT
Updated On: May 06 2014 06:50:56 PM CDT
WICHITA, Kan. -

People living in a contaminated part of west Wichita could have clean water in their homes by the end of the summer. The Wichita City council voted unanimously to trade wells for connection to water main lines.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says private well water was contaminated by a dry cleaning chemical in a west Wichita neighborhood.

Some people living in the area are concerned with their property value and not just because of the contaminated water. They are worried getting hooked up to city water could destroy the most attractive part of their neighborhood.

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"We have some 50-foot tall, 50-year-old oak trees up and down the street," said resident Ryan Nett. "For an older neighborhood, that's the biggest draw in this housing market."

Nett lives in the contaminated area where council members voted to put in new water mains. His house and about 30 others will soon be moved from private well water to city lines.

"It's a little bit better piece of mind having city water because of the contamination that happened," Nett said. "We've kind of lost trust in that source."

"I just have to keep reminding myself no, no, no, don't use the water," said resident Blanche Brown.

Homeowners who have been drinking the contaminated water for years stopped using it about a month ago. At a cost of about $64,000, city workers hope to have safe water flowing through new pipes by August.

"I'll stand out here in the yard here and cheer them on," Brown said.

Nett asked council members if the city could work around the trees when putting in the water mains. City workers assured him drilling below the roots is possible.

"It was good to hear they're concerned about that and I hope they pursue some drilling options that will conserve that," Nett said.

The city is already thinking ahead about more mains that might need to be built if the contamination plume shifts, affecting more than 30 homes to the south and west of the area. KDHE will reimburse the city for all the costs.

KDHE has a state dry cleaning fund for these types of situations. Part of the money comes from a 2.5 percent surcharge customers pay every time they get something cleaned. It also comes from annual registration fees from dry cleaning businesses, as well as fees on purchases of dry cleaning solvents.

However, there is a limit to what the state will pay. There is a $5 million cap for contamination clean-up paid through the fund.

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