Is Wichita water treatment facility failing? City leaders address concern

WICHITA, Kan. Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell Thursday addressed concerns over the city's aging water treatment facility.

This follows a new report that the facility could fail at any moment. Wichita's director of public works made those statements. In his report, the public works director says the aging water treatment facility keeps him up at night and every hour it is running, it could fail.

For Tori Thrash, owner of All About Dogs Pet Grooming in Wichita's Delano District, the water treatment plant's failure would mean no business for her.

"We wash all of the dogs and then half of my clientele are wash only," she says, explaining the importance of a dependable water supply for her business.

Thrash says she was surprised to learn with no backup built in, a complete failure at the city's water treatment facility would mean no running water, no just for her, but for hundreds of thousands of people who rely on it.

"It'd be horrible," she says. "I couldn't do anything here. I couldn't wash the dogs. I couldn't do anything."

Longwell says failures happen,but Wichita avoids "complete failure" by consistent maintenance by skilled staff.

"We're doing that. We've don that. We will continue to do that by investing in our infrastructure," he says of keeping the water treatment facility operable.

Longwell says since 2011, hundreds of millions of dollars have gone toward doing just that.

"Over the last five years, the city has invested more than $200 million in its entire water infrastructure to ensure Wichitans have reliable water service," Wichita Director of Public Works and Facilities Alan King says.

King did say failures at the current facility keep him up at night, but he clarifies that by saying the facility he's talking about is not a complete failure.

"A failure is a system failing, and we have those and expect to have those. I get notices of those happening and I expect those will continue to happen until we get the new water plant," he explains.

That new plant is in the works, but it won't be up and running until at least 2024. The new plant is necessary, but it comes at a high cost.

"The reason that we're prepared to spend $500 million is we need to address an aging water treatment facility," Longwell says. "If the treatment facility was in perfect working order, we would not be spending $500 million."