KDHE provides clean water to dozens in contaminated area

Published On: Apr 08 2014 04:19:28 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 10 2014 10:12:46 PM CDT

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment held a public meeting Thursday evening to discuss a toxic chemical found in groundwater in a West Wichita neighborhood.

KDHE believes the highlighted areas in the attached map are areas where groundwater has been contaminated by a toxic substance.

Many people left the meeting angry and upset, worried about cancer or even death.

"I thought they did a good job of explaining the background of it and giving a better idea of how everything came to be as it is now. But it's one of those things where I think there are a lot of questions still," said resident John Woulf.

Some residents could have been drinking the contaminated water for years, maybe even decades, because KDHE does not know when the water was originally polluted.

KDHE is providing residents with three 5-gallon water bottles a week for now. "We provided bottled water as a short term alternative water supply. Long term,we'll have to get them hooked up to city water system," said Bob Jurgens with the KDHE.

Jurgens says the water is safe to use for watering lawns or washing cars, but that's about it. "I also grow a vegetable garden, so I don't want to eat vegetables that are going to be dangerous because of contamination," said resident Tom Elliott.

Some residents have already been told they can't use their water, while others are waiting to hear the results.

Meanwhile, many are worried about how it will affect property values. "It's kind of irritating, the whole thing, to me because I have not had city water available to me," said Elliott. "It's up the street and down the street from me and I just had to put in a new well, just recently. So that's a lot of money out of my pocket."

KDHE believes the former Four Seasons Dry Cleaner on West Central caused the contamination. It will investigate if the dry cleaner did everything it could to prevent the contamination. "I'm not mad at them. Wish it wouldn't of happened, but not much we can do about it now other than go through the steps needed to clean the water up," said Elliott.

The Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says the chemical, tetrachloroethylene, is used for dry cleaning and metal degreasing. They also say that exposure of high concentrations of the chemical can cause dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, difficulty in speaking and walking, unconsciousness and even death.

This map includes a buffer zone around the known contamination area.

Jurgens says the impacted wells are generally in the center part of the shaded area. It is important to know that this may change based on additional sampling they are conducting for this project.

KDHE expects the corrective process to cost a few million dollars, but it does not not anticipate residents taking on any of those expenses.

For information from the Bureau of Environmental Remediation on Identified Sites click here.