Pretty Prairie residents excited by promise of drinkable tap water

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Workers smooth out the last corner of the freshly poured concrete floor of the new Pretty Prairie water treatment plant. Workers smooth out the last corner of the freshly poured concrete floor of the new Pretty Prairie water treatment plant.
The freshly poured concrete floor of the new water treatment plant going up in Pretty Prairie.  Workers poured the concrete on Monday, April 15, 2019. The freshly poured concrete floor of the new water treatment plant going up in Pretty Prairie. Workers poured the concrete on Monday, April 15, 2019.
PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. (KAKE) -

"I'm really excited that maybe we'll be able to actually drink the water someday," said Katie McClure, who's lived in Pretty Prairie since she was 6 and never been able to drink the water straight from the tap.  "We've never been able to drink it.  Never, ever.  The nitrates have been way too high."

After years of problems with safe drinking water,  the small town dug deep to find the money for a new water treatment plant.  The federal government says the town is one of nearly 200 in the Midwest with too many nitrates in the water due to fertilizer runoff from surrounding farms.

But, all that is about to change.

"I'm really excited about it.  I think it's going to be really great for our town," said Doris McClure.

"I like to watch it," said William Michael Green, who lives just up the road from the new water treatment plant currently under construction.

Under threats from the federal government, the city has been seeking a way to fix the problem.  But the $2.4 million needed to build the new treatment plant seemed impossible for the small town of about 650 people.

In the meantime, residents resorted to bottled water.

"You ain't supposed to drink it.  You ain't supposed to take a bath in it," said Green.  "I've got to get water at the store every day.  I don't drink none of it here.  I don't even give it to my dogs."

The city raised property taxes by 21 mills or $250 a year on a $100,000 home.  The cost of water also went up a couple years ago.

"My water bill usually runs over $100 every month," said Krista McClure.

Much of that money going to pay for the new construction - a new water treatment plant to bring cleaner, drinkable water straight to the tap.

"Oh, it'd be fantastic, yes!" said Doris McClure about the idea of being able to drink water from the tap.

The taxes will pay off a 20 year loan from KDHE to build the plant, at 1.8% interest.

"It's really exciting," Krista McClure said.  "But I'm hoping that it doesn't affect the cost of things any more than it already is."

The construction that everybody is so excited about is possible in part because of the generosity of the local school district.

"We donated some land.  They needed more space.  They would have to put the treatment plant elsewhere, which would  cost the city more money," said Randy Hendrickson, superintendent of the Pretty Prairie Public Schools.  "We know that the school is reliant upon the city and the city is reliant upon the school.  I mean, it's a small community and if we can help them. that's a great thing."

The project is running a little behind because of the late winter weather.  But the lead engineer expects to begin pumping clean water to Pretty Prairie residents in a couple of months.  A new water tower will follow sometime in the fall.

"It's really neat to see some progress.  It really is," said Doris McClure.