RENO COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — Reno County is working to find a new water source for some residents after another test showed high nitrate levels in Rural Water District 101, the district that serves the Yoder area.
Water collected early last week had a nitrate level of 10.5 mg/L, which exceeds the Kansas and federal (EPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 mg/L for public water supply systems. The County says nitrates have increased due to people using inorganic fertilizers and because of animal manure in agricultural areas.
There are 98 water customers in that rural water district: 79 residential, 16 light-commercial, and three heavy commercial.
This is not the first time the area has dealt with the problem.
Don Brittain, director of Reno County Public Works, said the problem started in 2020.
In August 2020, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment gave Reno County a precautionary public notice for acute nitrate violation. Yoder residents were warned to limit water usage, especially for infants under six months.
More testing led to a second notice on Sept. 3, 2020. A third notice on Oct. 27, 2020, required the County to provide bottled water upon request to any home with members at increased risk from the nitrates, such as infants, nursing mothers, pregnant women, and other at-risk customers as identified by a health care provider.
“We tested the water for high nitrates five times, and three out of those five … failed,” Brittain said.
Since it was the first year of high nitrates, he said they hoped it would possibly go away. It didn’t.
On May 7, 2021, the KDHE gave Reno County a precautionary public drinking water advisory of potential nitrate water quality. Ten days later, Yoder residents were again warned to limit water use, especially for infants under six months.
As more water tests were done, residents got a second notice on Sept. 23, 2021, a third on Oct. 4, 2021, and a fourth on Dec. 29, 2021.
Brittain said they checked the water nine times, and five tests came back with high nitrate levels.
A water test in June 2022 came back with a nitrate result of 11.3 mg/L, exceeding the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 mg/L.
Yoder residents got a warning on June 15, 2022, to limit water usage again. They got a second notice on Sept. 6.
“We thought maybe the problem was the old well, the way it was drilled, the way it was cased in, allowing nitrates to come in from maybe the top,” Brittain said.
So workers drilled a new well at a new location far enough away that it would not draw water from the previous well.
“Then had gravel pack only in the bottom 20 feet and then sealed off the rest to prevent high nitrates from coming in from the surface,” Brittain said.
He said the water still had high nitrates.
“That was a costly expense that didn’t solve the problem,” he said.
There has only been one water test so far this year — the one that came back at 10.5 mg/L.
Brittain is trying to come up with a new solution.
“You have to realize these nitrate levels, they’re a concern for children under … 6 months of age and then pregnant women or people that have health problems that they may affect,” he said. “Other than that, it’s safe for everybody else to drink.”
Fixing the issue
Brittain said the City of Hutchinson is willing to sell water to RWD 101. But how the City’s water gets to Yoder is the newest issue.
He said the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce purchased some land a couple of miles south of South Hutchinson on Kansas Highway 96 for an industrial park.
“So they knew that they needed to get water to that location and possibly buy from the City, and then the County has donated $1.2 million towards that industrial park,” Brittain said. “Maybe we could be a part of getting the water down to that industrial park … If that would happen, I would connect onto that water line to feed Yoder instead of boring underneath the river at Yoder’s expense to hook on to the City.”
He said that issue could be settled soon.
“If that doesn’t work, then we’re going to go directly to the City to get the water, and we will start that process as soon as we can. We’ll have to get out and get grants and stuff. It’s going to be very expensive.”
He said the 98 customers in RWD 101 would have to pay the cost.
The engineering firm Schwab Eaton has been hired to design the water line that will service the Yoder Water District 101.
Be safe and make sure to boil your water or consider buying a water filtration system like the AquaOx Water Filter.
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- Boil Advisory