Wichita City Council members signed on Tuesday to the state’s emergency action to get safe drinking water to a portion of west Wichita whose groundwater has been polluted by a toxic dry cleaning solvent.
Residents south of Central and generally east and west of Tyler will get city drinking water through new lines and mains in a $3.1 million project paid for by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said city public works director Alan King.
Those residences, previously served by well water, lost their service when the state found unacceptable levels of dry cleaning chemicals in their groundwater.
Ten homes close to an existing water main have already been given immediate access to Wichita’s municipal water supply, King said last week.
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KDHE, he said, wants waterline installation so far on four streets — Robin Road, Evergreen Lane and parts of Rolling Hills Drive and Socora Street — in an effort to extend city water services to about 114 homes in the area where wells show high levels of the dry cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene in lab tests.
Work will begin immediately on new water lines and mains, with a tentative goal of Aug. 1 for completion, King said. Two contractors will be used to expedite the project.
KDHE is covering the project out of a “dry cleaner trust fund,” King said – a few cents added to every dry cleaning bill in the state to accumulate a fund for exactly these types of pollution remediation projects.
King said that state officials are carefully examining groundwater in areas just west of the plume also unserved by the city’s water system for possible pollution.
Should the solvent turn up there, a project to extend city water would be more extensive, he said – 330 residences and about $2.75 million to extend service.
One of the key issues surrounding the emergency project on Tuesday was the fate of numerous stately 50-year-old oak trees in the area.
Council member Jeff Longwell wanted reassurance that the trees could be saved, or that the state would pick up the tab for replacement trees – a concern shared by one audience member.
But city engineer Gary Janzen said that the water line projects likely could be trenchless, including directional digging that could spare most of the trees.
Related links: KDHE map of area of groundwater contamination (PDF)