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KDHE lifts boil water advisory for Wichita, surrounding cities


The advisory, which began Thursday afternoon, was lifted early Saturday morning for Wichita, and Sunday for nearby cities.

The boil water advisory for Wichita, which inconvenienced residents and interrupted the operation of schools and businesses, has ended.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment lifted the advisory early Saturday morning, nearly 36 hours after a main break led to a loss of pressure in the water distribution system. Pressure loss can reduce the amount of chlorine in the system and cause bacterial contaminants to get into the water. “If you get a (water) bill from the City of Wichita, your water is safe to drink and for all other purposes just like it has been up to this past event,” Don Henry, the assistant director of Public Works and Utilities for Wichita, said at a briefing Saturday morning at City Hall.

“As an extra measure of precaution, it’s a really good idea for all of those faucets that you drink from to go ahead and open those up and let them run for 10 to 15 minutes before drinking that water.”

In addition to running your faucets, the city recommends discarding ice from the next two cycles of automatic icemakers.

On Sunday, KDHE lifted the boil advisory for nearly all of the nearby cities and districts that buy water from Wichita. Those include Benton, Rose Hill, Derby, Kechi, Valley Center, McConnell AFB and Sedgwick County Rural Water Districts 1 and 3.

As of Sunday afternoon, a boil advisory remained in place for Sedgwick County Rural Water District 2.

Wichita officials said KDHE tested 179 water samples following the loss of pressure. The samples are required to incubate for 24 hours before they can be tested.

The samples were tested at a KDHE-certified lab shortly after midnight.

“Laboratory testing samples collected from the City of Wichita indicate no evidence of bacteriological contamination and all other conditions that placed the system at risk of contamination are deemed by KDHE officials to be resolved,” KDHE said in a news release.

The incident began about 3 p.m. Thursday when Wichita's water treatment facility briefly lost power. Once power was restored, a major water main broke near I-135 and 18th Street, leading to the loss of pressure in the system.

Residents were told not to drink the water unless they boiled it for a minute.

Wichita Public Schools canceled classes Friday because of the water issue. Many restaurants closed or curtailed services.

City officials said it was the first boil advisory issued since the 1990s. They said work on repairing the broken water main continues.

“Keeping our water customers safe and delivering a safe and effective supply of water remains to be the highest priority for Wichita utilities,” Henry said Saturday morning. “To that we are dedicated, and we very much appreciate the patience and perseverance that the community and our patterns have shown through this endeavor.”

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.