KANSAS OFFICIALS FAILED TO INFORM RESIDENTS OF WELL WATER CONTAMINATION
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By Michelle Moore
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) failed to inform nearby residents of a groundwater contamination that affected over 200 homes in two Wichita-area neighbourhoods.
On August 25 2011, KDHE discovered a groundwater contamination at the Kwik Shop at 412 West Grand Avenue in Haysville Kansas. It would not be until July 17, 2017 that homeowners in the area were informed. Some lived less than a mile away.
The former location of American Cleaners dry cleaners tested positive for the dry-cleaning chemical perchloroethylene (PCE). In three groundwater samples the levels surpassed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) maximum contaminant level.
According to KDHE Environmental Health Officer Dr. Farah Ahmed, when consumed dry cleaning chemicals can build up in a person's system and may damage the nervous system, liver, kidneys and reproductive system.
PCE could also influence mood, memory and vision in long term exposure to low levels. It may also lead to a greater increase in the risk of miscarriages, preterm births, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
When the contamination was found during an expansion of the Kwik Shop in 2011, the owner of the dry cleaner applied to the Dry Cleaning Facility Release Trust Fund to remediate the site.
The Dry Cleaning Facility Release Trust Fund is administered by KDHE's Kansas Dry Cleaning Program to assist the owners of dry cleaners with the cost of remediating a contaminated site, however it is so underfunded that it can often takes years.
The application was accepted on November 29 but was placed in low priority because at that time KDHE believed the groundwater to be flowing south west and away from groundwater wells. But in actuality, it was flowing southwest directly toward them, following Cowskin Creek.
The error was discovered in July 2017 when a resident contacted KDHE to test their well water prior to selling his home. According to KDHE affected residents were notified within 24 hours and provided with bottled water.
Bob Jurgens Director of the KDHE Bureau of Environmental Remediation said in a statement, "since then KDHE has worked with the City of Haysville to install 8.7 miles of water main to where KDHE could give permanent connections to allow a long-term drinking water supply."
Jurgens said out of the 194 homes tested, 4 homes exceeded EPA standards. He said the residents of all homes within the buffer zone were contacted to be offered connection to the City of Haysville main water line which had remained unaffected.
As of August 28 2018, 209 of the 211 homes in the buffer zone have been connected to the municipal water supply. The remaining two were not connected because of foreclosure or access issues.
KDHE considers the emergency response complete, but while residents in the affected zone now have clean drinking water, the groundwater remains contaminated. KDHE says they are currently developing a remediation plan to address it.
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