Chloride plume moving toward Wichita's water supply

By: Lily Wu - Email
By: Lily Wu - Email

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WICHITA, Kan.--- The U.S. Geological Survey released a study today showing that a chloride contamination plume is moving from Burrton to Wichita's water supply.

The rate of the chloride plume movement from 1990 to 2008 was about 0.8 ft per day or a total of about one mile in 18 years.

If pumping, climatic, and artificial recharge conditions remain about the same, it will take between 10 to 20 years to reach the City of Wichita's western most wells. At that time, levels would exceed a 250 milligrams per liter chloride concentration.

"This is a problem that we know is decades off but we don't want to wait until our options are fewer. Instead, what we're trying to do is understand what that migration looks like," said Alan King, Wichita Public Works and Utilities Director.

The contamination plume was created in the 1930s from oil and gas activities near the town of Burrton. The plume of high-chloride groundwater is currently moving toward well fields that supply water to city and agricultural users.

"It can also harm crops, which is really more of a danger. Wichita can clean the water to reduce the chloride concentration in treatment but agriculture irrigators are taking their water straight from the aquifer," said Brian Klager, USGS hydrologist.

One option to remediate the site is to remove the plume. Another option, which is being used through the Aquifer Storage Recovery project, is to increase artificial recharge of water into the aquifer to slow the movement of chloride.

The study also showed that increased pumping of well water and agricultural water will increase the rate of chloride movement.

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