'This is a blatant environmental injustice': People living in 29th and Grove site want more testing done
It's something more and more people living around Grove Street in Northeast Wichita are asking. Why didn't they know their groundwater was polluted?
“It's something that we should have been aware of a long time ago," Quinnie Davis told Kake News Monday.
“Why didn't we hear about it before" added Misty Colbert.
Both have lived in the neighborhoods inside the 29th and Grove contamination site since the 80s.
The Kansas Department of Health says a swath of land along Grove Street in Wichita has high amounts of a cancer-causing chemical, TCE, in its groundwater after a spill sometime in the 70s or ’80s at the Union Pacific rail yard.
The KDHE discovered the contamination in 1994 but the site didn’t become widely known to the public until fall of 2022.
Aujanae Bennett, head of the Millair Neighborhood Association says simply it “is a blatant environmental injustice.”
Last Friday, the KDHE put out a study showing the potential effects of living in this area.
Double the liver cancer rate for black residents, compared to the state average as well as a higher rate of low infant birth weights. By the time the spill happened, most of the neighborhoods were on city-treated water, so any exposure would have come from wells, soil, or vapors from the ground.
Colbert wonders if there could be other impacts as well. “How badly could I be affected? You know, is it affecting trees in the neighborhood, because we've always had fruit trees? So we ate off of those fruit trees, you know, most of my life.”
Now residents are wanting the KDHE to do more studies of the area. This one released Friday tracked cancer rates from 2009 to 2019 only and birth weights from 2000 to 2021.
The city and county have already said they are looking into funding health screenings for people. Davis says that will be a good start. "I think we all should be checked if we need to, you know, to check some symptoms.“
Bennett has spearheaded a lot of the local information campaigns on the contamination site. She says the KDHE study confirmed a lot of what she thought but there is still more to do to make sure people are healthy. “The steps they're taking now, they should have taken 30 years ago. It's very frustrating to be born here raised here, have a business here, have invested in this community my entire life and it almost feels like a betrayal.”