80-year-old filter triggered Wichita’s boil water advisory

City officials say the boil water advisory will remain in effect for Wichita until at least Wednesday evening as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment tests Wichita’s water supply. the city.

Alan King, director of public works and utilities, said oversight of the maintenance of an 80-year-old filter at the city’s sewage treatment plant was to blame for the degradation in the quality of the water, which caused cloudy water with “a higher than expected solids dose”. to be discharged into the city’s distribution system.

“Normally, we are able to detect these glitches that occur. In this particular case, we were unsuccessful,” King said at a press conference Tuesday night.

“Now the backwash is complete. The water coming into the system is okay and clean, but you have this cloudy water flow going through our system, and that’s what KDHE is concerned about.

King said KDHE water samples have already been taken and are on their way to a lab for testing.

“We’re confident it should only last about 24 hours,” Mayor Brandon Whipple said.

But if tests show bacteria in the water, it could be several days before Wichita water can be safely consumed without boiling it first.

King compared the filters to “big swimming pools with sand and charcoal at the bottom”. The sand and charcoal are replaced every five or 10 years, he said, but the filter itself is original to the 80-year-old plant.

“Because we have a very old processing plant, we have to expect some issues,” King said.

The Eagle reported in 2019 that an engineering survey found that 100% of the city’s raw water pipes were in “very poor” condition in 2017, and that the city’s entire water infrastructure was in poor condition. a “significant risk” of default.

Construction is underway on the new Wichita Water Treatment Plant, which King said will likely be completed by late 2024 or early 2025.

“This new water treatment plant will replace that plant, and we should have a more reliable treatment process in this new treatment plant,” he said.

Last October, a major water main break and a boil water advisory left about half a million Kansans who depend on Wichita’s supply without reliable drinking water for 36 hours.

Before that, King said the city’s last boil water advisory was in the late 1990s.

This story was originally published June 7, 2022 7:14 p.m.

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Eduardo covers crime and breaking news for The Wichita Eagle. His previous professional experience includes stints at KWCH 12 Eyewitness News, the local CBS affiliate in Wichita, and as a marketing manager for a local real estate team. Besides writing, Eduardo also enjoys photography and cinematography. Current advice? email [email protected] or call 316-268-6213.

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