WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita city officials are releasing updates on the new water treatment facility after statements were made by one official who said the plant could fail at any minute.
Alan King, director of public works and utilities, reportedly said to the Wichita Eagle, “It keeps me awake at night…every hour that thing is running, it could fail.”
Mayor Jeff Longwell appeared upset at a media briefing about the comments calling them, “dramatic.” Longwell said the facility is not at imminent risk of failing.
Alan King himself said his comments were, “too colorful,” but that public works employees are handling the current situation and a future plan is in the works to replace the nearly 80-year-old plant.
“Wichitans have not had a single interruption,” said Mayor Longwell. “Not one single interruption, nor have we ever had to ask our residents to boil water for their safety.”
The future plan includes a brand new water treatment facility that would cost roughly $500 million. It would be located at 21st and Hoover Road.
Officials said they have been approved to apply for financing thorough the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). The final paperwork for the financing is due in October.
But until a new facility can be built, King said more failures of the old plant are expected, but with the experience of public works employees, he’s confident things can be repaired in a quick manner.
“Duplicate parts are on-hand that ensure if something breaks, we can fix it immediately,” said King.
Mayor Longwell said the city has spent $200 million in the last five years to maintain reliable water services.
By October, the city should know more about the exact cost of the project.
“Without WIFIA financing, the project would be delayed seven years in an attempt to avoid double digit rate increases,” said King.
Wichita residents have experienced rate increases in the past and officials said that will continue, but that citizens can remain confident in the city’s water services.
Below are the increases in rates for water and sewer in the last decade:
According to public works officials, the average rate of change for the top 50 cities form 2001-2015 was 5.9% for water and 5.8% for sewer.
“We recognize there is significant risk with our water treatment plant and we’re taking that seriously,” said King.
The Wichita City Council will vote on Phase 2 of the project this fall. If passed, construction will be initiated and groundbreaking would come in late 2020.