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KDHE identifies contaminant in 24 private wells in west Wichita

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, April 5, 2014, at 2:35 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, May 6, 2014, at 2 p.m.

Some residents in west Wichita began receiving bottled water and carbon filtration systems for their homes last week after contaminated well water was found.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has advised residents of 24 homes to stop drinking their water after finding a dry-cleaning solvent in their private wells. KDHE has identified an area of concern about contaminated well water stretching from Central on the north to Kellogg on the south on a slant that runs across Tyler roughly between Woodchuck on the east and Arcadia on the west.

The solvent came from the former Four Seasons dry cleaners near Central and Tyler, said Bob Jurgens, chief of the KDHE Dry Cleaning Remediation Program.

KDHE will hold a meeting about the problem with residents of the area Thursday at Wilbur Middle School, 340 N. Tyler Road, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Jurgens said 50 private water wells in the area have been tested, and 24 were found to contain concentrations of tetrachloroethylene above the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level of 5 micrograms per liter for drinking water.

The EPA defines tetrachloroethylene as a colorless organic liquid with a mild, chloroform-like odor that is used in the textile industry and as a component of aerosol dry-cleaning products. On its website, the EPA has classified tetrachloroethylene as likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

Jurgens expects the number of contaminated wells to rise as crews continue to sample wells in the area so they can identify other residents who need to be advised that they may be drinking contaminated water.

Jurgens said anybody who thinks their water may be contaminated should phone his number at KDHE, 785-296-1914. The calls will be checked over the weekend, he said.

KDHE has arranged to have bottled water delivered to 11 homes in the area, and 11 homes with higher levels of contamination have been given carbon filtration systems to clean all the water in the residences, he said.

Jurgens said KDHE doesn’t yet know how long the water in the wells has been contaminated, or at what levels.

“We’ve been focusing on trying to find out how many are drinking the water and haven’t had time to look at the source area,” he said. “We just haven’t had the time to go do the research on it.”

KDHE discovered the contamination last week while monitoring wells near Woodchuck and Kellogg. KDHE sent crews into the area on Monday.

Jurgens said the contamination is at least 20 years old, but it takes time for a contaminant to get into water wells.

“It’s really hard to tell how long they’ve been drinking it and what the level of severity of it was,” he said.

For a long-term solution, KDHE will work with the city of Wichita to extend its water mains in the area and get residents hooked up to city water, Jurgens said.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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