Unsafe water or not enough water pressure – some Finney County residents are anxious for a solution

Local

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – Drinking a glass of water, washing your hands, or doing a load of laundry are things that many of us may take for granted.

However, those simple, daily luxuries haven’t even been an option for nearly two months for the residents a housing community just outside of Garden City.

Since mid-April, many residents of the Towns Riverview Subdivisions have been boiling water, bathing in portable showers, and using bottled water to cook, clean, and drink.

Nearly 970 residents in about 250 homes do not have safe, reliable water.

“I need the water for every day, you know, all day, because, you know, have the problem to the COVID-19 and I need wash the hands,” said Maria Hinojos, resident of Towns Riverview South.

Hinojos has lived in the subdivision for more than 20 years, but the last two months have left her with big frustrations. She is relying on bottled water to cook and drink and has to boil water to use for cleaning.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) says there is not enough pressure to keep contaminants out of the water.

Some homes are only receiving four to five pounds of pressure in their lines while he KDHE requires at least 20 pounds.

The water problems are nothing new for the subdivisions. Years of hard work trying to get residents safe drinking water and adequate pressure have yet to fully solve the issues.

The initial problems started in 2017, after high uranium levels and other contaminants forced the wells serving the residents to be shut down.

A water line was then extended from Garden City a mile-and-a-half east to supply the subdivisions.

From there, booster pumps were installed to properly regulate the pressure and feed the water to the houses.

Delmer Towns II is the manager of Towns Riverview Water System.

“The entire plan was submitted by Delmer and his engineer to KDHE, and he and KDHE signed off on the water being okay and the water pressure being okay,” said Lon Pishny, Finney County Commissioner and resident of Towns Riverview North.

However, due to multiple issues involving the booster pumps, faulty valves, pipe breaks, and an aged water system, maintaining water pressure became an issue. 

After two boil water advisories, one in 2018 that ended 11 days later and one this April that has yet to end, and an emergency order issued by the KDHE on May 8, finding a permanent fix has become a top priority.

“We got a bunch of valves changed out trying to get the well going. We have an engineer with a plan to loop the lines to try and get it pressure from the backside. So it’s just a matter of time until we can get that figured out,” said Towns.

The problems are actively being worked on, but the timeline for when the system will be fixed is still unsure.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can, you know,” said Towns. “It’s just slow going. There’s days, days we run shovels for all day, and then the next day we shut water off and try to fix as many valves as we can.”

“There’s no question that there’s activity taking place and has been for quite some time,” said Pishny.

During this time, many people in Finney County have come together to help by delivering free cases of water to each household.

Organizations such as Centura Health, Cornerstone Church, Finney County Emergency Management and Public Safety, Finney County Health Department, Finney County United Way, Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce, LiveWell Finney County Health Coalition, Spirit of the Plains CASA, St. Catherine’s Hospital, and the YMCA have offered their services. 

“Water is a basic need. And Centura was able to get their hands on some bottled water and get it to us, so we took that opportunity to get it out to the people,” said Callie Dyer, Executive Director for Livewell Finney County.

Right now, the long-term solution for the issue is still up in the air. In the meantime, Towns asks the residents of the subdivisions to stop watering lawns, in the hope that it will increase the pressure and give the water technicians enough time to properly fix the problems.

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