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Boil water advisory could be lifted for Wichita, surrounding cities early Saturday morning

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Brian Grimmett/KMUW
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The city of Wichita, as well as surrounding cities, are under a boil water advisory due to a major main break.

The City of Wichita said it should know by early Saturday morning whether the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will lift a boil water advisory.

Samples were sent to KDHE, where they have to sit for 24 hours in an incubator to allow for bacteria to grow, if any is present.

If bacteria is not present, KDHE can lift the advisory. Test results are expected Saturday.

“But we want to air on the side of caution and take the KDHE recommendations, which is until you do these other tests and are cleared, that you operate the way that we are,” Alan King, director of the city’s Public Works and Utilities Department, said Friday.

Wichita's water treatment facility briefly lost power Thursday. King said that the water treatment facility reacted the way it should have in that event.

Once power was restored, a major water main broke near I-135 and 18th Street. Officials with the city said the pipe that burst was installed in 1969.

The break caused a water pressure loss throughout the system. Pressure loss can cause bacterial contaminants to get into the water.

“What we noticed was that even with the system back up, we could not maintain a proper pressure,” King said.

He said the boil water advisory "is an attempt to be extra safe, and for people to be able to use the water in a way that there is no chance of it causing any kinds of health problems.”

The advisory also includes several nearby cities that buy water from Wichita, including Bel Aire, Andover, Rose Hill, Derby, Kechi, Benton and Valley Center.

The city said in a news release late Thursday afternoon that system pressure had returned to normal. People should be able to get water in their homes but the boil advisory is still in effect.

Wichita school officials decided late Thursday night to cancel school on Friday. They said the district did not have the ability to provide bottled water to its 47,000 students and 10,000 employees

"With the projected temperature Friday afternoon (expected to be near 90), and the fact that we can’t be assured all students and staff have access to quality water, we believe the prudent thing to do in the interest of safety is to cancel school for tomorrow," the district said in a news release. "Because we do have a limited supply of bottled water, we will conduct Friday evening activities as scheduled, with water being delivered to the locations of the scheduled activities."

Wichita State University resumed normal activities Friday. Water problems interrupted activities on WSU’s main campus Thursday afternoon and all non-essential personnel were asked to leave in order to conserve water.

Area school districts, such as Maize, canceled after-school activities Thursday due to the advisory. The city of Maize doesn't get its water from Wichita but some of its schools do.

The last boil water advisory issued for the city happened in the 1990s, according to a city spokesperson.

The city recommends taking the following measures during the advisory:

  • Boil water for one minute prior to use
  • Dispose of ice cubes and don't use ice from household automatic ice makers
  • Disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersing them in clean tap water and one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water for a minute
  • Water used for bathing does not need to be boiled. But children should be supervised children while bathing so water is not ingested
  • The advisory will remain in effect until repairs are made and contaminants are not detected in the system.