Alert issued for 2 Topeka-area water districts

By: KAKE News (WIBW) -- Email
By: KAKE News (WIBW) -- Email

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Two Topeka-area water suppliers have higher than acceptable levels of a compound, linked to an increased risk of cancer.

The City of Topeka says Shawnee County Rural Water District 3, in southern Shawnee County, and the Metro Topeka Airport Authority at Forbes Field all violate EPA requirements for Haloacetic acid (HAA) levels.

HHAs are a byproduct of using chlorine to treat and filter water.

Both entities get their water from the City of Topeka. The city water itself has stayed in compliance, but officials say it's unlikely to stay that way due to new testing requirements. City of Topeka Utilities Superintendent Don Rankin says the city's HAA levels have been at the upper limits of what's acceptable under a prior system where they were allowed to average results of all test sites. However, new requirements say each site individually could count as a violation.

As for how the city's HAA levels have stayed within the acceptable range while entities to which the same water is supplied have not, Rankin explained that the HAAs continue to from as a byproduct of the chlorine as the water flows into and through the system. Therefore, he says, it stands to reason that the further the water goes from the source, the higher the HAA level will be as more of it develops.

Rankin says the water is safe. He says people would need to be concerned if the city did nothing. Rankin says the EPA cites the possibility of an increased cancer risk when consuming water with unacceptable HAA levels over long periods of time, such as several decades.

Rankin says a consultant recommends switching from chlorine to a disinfecting system using ozone. A cost estimate isn't yet available, but he'll be proposing the upgrade to council members during capital improvement plan discussions.

Affected customers will receive notices about the violation. Shawnee County Rural Water District #3 has just over a 1,037 customers. A person with the district says the notices are being developed and will be sent by their January 17th deadline to notify customers. MTAA says it supplies around 60 commercial customers.

Earlier notices included Northern Osage County's Rural Water District #8 in the alert, however, KDHE confirmed Thursday afternoon that was an error and their HAA levels were not in violation. City of Topeka spokesperson Suzie Gilbert told 13 News the city was informed via a December 18 email that Osage Co. CRWD #8 had levels in violation and was not informed it had been removed from the violation list until late Thursday afternoon.


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