January 20, 2012

KDHE investigates contaminated well water near Andover

State health officials are conducting an investigation of a petroleum leak into private water wells in a residential area near Andover.

State health officials are conducting an investigation of a petroleum leak into private water wells in a residential area near Andover.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment began investigating Jan. 5 following a report of a petroleum-like odor in the Easter Addition, which is east of Andover and next to city limits between 13th and 21st streets. The nearly 40 homes in the addition all use well water.

Water for six of the 31 homes tested so far has been found to have benzene and other petroleum hydrocarbon-related contaminants above acceptable levels for drinking water standards, Chris Carey, a KDHE official who is overseeing the investigation, said Friday. About six more homes still need to be tested.

The contaminants don’t pose an immediate health risk, Carey said.

“You wouldn’t want to drink them every day for 30 years. They could pose a health threat long term,” Carey aid. “But in a short-term scenario, you wouldn’t expect them to pose an acute health hazard.”

Affected residents are being provided with bottled water and some have had a special filter system installed.

So far, the source for the contamination is unknown.

San Antonio-based NuStar Energy operates a petroleum pipeline in the area – and that pipeline had a leak in 1990, KDHE said – but state officials aren’t sure that company is responsible for the contamination.

“There aren’t any other petroleum sources in the area that we can identify at this point (besides NuStar’s pipeline),” said Rick Bean, a KDHE official who overseas investigations and clean up of contaminated sites across Kansas. “But we’re not 100 percent sure it’s theirs. We’re working with them on that.”

NuStar said it doesn’t think its pipeline is the source of the problem.

The company took samples from the residents’ wells. Those samples don’t match any of the refined petroleum products, such as gasoline and diesel fuel, it carries in that pipeline, said spokeswoman Joanna Weidman.

“We just received these tests results (Friday),” Weidman said, “so we are still evaluating them so that we can better identify what the compound is and where it could have come from.”

NuStar also disputed KDHE’s figures. It considers only one of the six homes with contaminates to have water that’s below the drinking water standard, Weidman said.

The company is paying to install filtration systems in nine of the homes, Carey said. Twelve homes are being provided with bottled water by NuStar.

Weidman said NuStar will continue to work with KDHE and the residents to resolve the issue.

NuStar also initiated a public meeting to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Andover Public Library, 1511 E. Central Ave., to discuss the problem, Andover Mayor Ben Lawrence said.

Carey said it would be a while before the cleanup and testing are completed.

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