Kansas residents drank contaminated water for years and authorities decided to keep them in the dark

Kansas residents drank contaminated water for years and authorities decided to keep them in the dark

Hundreds of residents in two Wichita-area neighborhoods in Kansas drank contaminated water for years while the state sat back and let it happened without informing the residents. Reports state that the contaminated water was allowed to be distributed in the neighborhoods despite warning signs of contamination detected near water wells, which were used for drinking, bathing and washing, according to Kansas.com.

The state, while probing for a possible expansion of a Kwik Shop, had discovered in 2011 that dry cleaning chemicals had contaminated groundwater at 412 W. Grand in Haysville. However, no action was taken by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for over six years, reports state.

The authorities did not event test the private wells which were located less than a mile away from the contamination region, neither did they notify the residents that the water they drink has possibly been contaminated with perchloroethylene (PCE). The amount of PCE in groundwater was found to be higher than the level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems safe to drink.


A resident of the region, Joe Huffman, whose well was contaminated by a Haysville dry cleaner, while talking to The Wichita Eagle, said: "We didn’t find out for 7 years. Haysville knew it. KDHE knew it. Kwik Shop knew it."

This is not the first the incident has occurred, a similar incident had occurred once before near a dry cleaning site in Wichita and the state had waited for over four years between finding out about the contamination and notifying the residents. The contamination had reportedly affected more than 200 homes.

Some of the residents of Whicita neighborhoods continue to rely on private well water as the residents of Kansas are not required to use city water if they already have a well.


The Kansas Department of Health and Environment released a statement saying it gave low priority to the Haysville site assuming the contaminated groundwater was traveling southwest, which was away from the private wells.

However, the health authorities did not realize it until 2017 that the groundwater was actually flowing to the southwest, directly along the Cowskin Creek. 


Huffman said that for the 25 years that he lived in his house, his wife and daughter drank water from the same well, and did not know that the contamination had reached their well too.

Reports state that a test found out that their well had nearly 10 times the allowed level of PCE in it.

PCE, when consumed, can build up over time and can possibly affect a person's nervous system, liver, kidneys and reproductive system. Reports state that prolonged exposure to the chemical can also cause changes in mood, memory, attention, reaction time and vision. Some studies have even suggested that PCEs could also lead to a higher risk of bladder cancer, according to reports.

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