TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — You may have seen a report from an organization called Environmental Working Group (EWG) circulating your social media this week. The report claims nearly all of the 870 water utilities in Kansas testing high for at least one contaminant. However, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the report is inaccurate and even insulting to the work the department does to keep water safe.
KDHE Director of the Bureau of Water, Tom Styles, says Kansas has 980 pubic water supplies, of those, 72 had one or more violations in 2018. He says that means about 98% of the Kansas population has clean and safe water. Styles adds that all violations are followed up with additional testing and most were found to be safe.
“If there are persistent problems, we go about helping the community put in appropriate treatment or find alternative sources, and we make sure the citizens of the state are safe with the drinking water,” explains Styles. “Our track record on this has been outstanding.”
The number of contaminants considered safe by the EWG is much lower than that of the government. This discrepancy creates a higher number of violations shown on the EWG report. Styles says KDHE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set health advisory levels in order to keep people safe. He adds there are only a couple contaminants that require immediate action: bacteria and nitrate.
“With bacteria we issue boil water advisories. We do that almost every day, something happens…a line breaks, we lose pressure. It happens, they go and fix it, they test, it comes back and we rescind the advisory,” explains Styles. “Nitrate we essentially warn people not to give that water to the population at risk, which tends to be infants, pregnant women, and sometimes small children.”
Styles says bottled water is given to those at risk while KDHE works to get the nitrate out of the water system. He says other contaminants only pose real threats over a lifetime of consumption.
The EWG report also says the government doesn’t regulate all contaminants, which Styles admits is true but he says the health advisory levels are put in place to keep people safe from any contamination. He also says KDHE is working hard to research any new contaminants.
“That has almost dominated our workload now,” says Styles.
If you are concerned or have questions about your water supply, contact your local water supplier or KDHE.