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Archive for Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Water woes

The problems in two Kansas towns serve as a good reminder of the importance of protecting water resources.

October 18, 2005

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Clean, drinkable water is something we too often take for granted.

On page 8B of Monday's Journal-World there is not one, but two stories about Kansas communities that face threats to their water supplies. In Salina, an underground plume of contaminated groundwater is inching toward one of the city's public water wells. The plume originated with a company that fumigated area grain elevators 35 years ago. Now the water contains dangerous levels of two chemicals often used in grain fumigants and pesticides.

In Wright, a smaller town in southwest Kansas, residents are being warned not to use private wells to fill swimming pools or water gardens unless those wells have been found not to have dangerous levels of thallium, a heavy metal. Contamination initially was discovered in 1988 and, in 1992, Wright hooked into Dodge City's water supply, eliminating the need for private wells for drinking water. Now experts are saying the water isn't safe for human contact or for watering edible plants.

It's not known where the Wright contamination came from, but a former employee of the Salina fumigating company reported that thousands of gallons of fumigant disappeared, apparently from a leaky storage tank, in 1969 and 1970.

It didn't take long for the contamination to occur, but it likely will take considerable time and money to correct the problem as much as possible. It's a reminder of what a precious resource clean water is and how quickly poor planning or careless human actions can endanger that resource.

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