Letter to the editor


November 26, 2019 - 10:40 AM

The Kansas Rural Water Association, a non-profit organization that was incorporated in 1966  and is dedicated to providing the education, technical assistance and leadership necessary to enhance the effectiveness of Kansas’ water and wastewater utilities, takes exception to an article concerning water quality recently published by the Kansas News Service. In the article, titled “Environmental group says almost all Kansas tap water is too contaminated,” and posted on kmuw.org., the reporter alleges that Kansas’ tap water is unsafe to drink based on research performed by the Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy group that, according to the Center for Organizational Research and Education, is widely known for its environmental activism. 

The bottom line is almost every one of the nearly 1,000 active public water supply systems in Kansas meets or exceeds all federally imposed Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards. In the article, the author quotes an EWG senior scientist who claims that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not updated its list of potential contaminants in 20 years, when the EPA announced just this last February an extremely ambitious PFAS action plan to clean up the so-called “forever chemical.” 

Not that the EPA science always meets the well-known and highly regarded Kansas Common-Sense Standard. Take for example the highly touted “major issue” of nitrates in drinking water. SDWA standard for nitrate is 10 milligrams per liter. The EPA’s standard language mentions infant methemoglobinemia, or blue-baby syndrome, a condition where a decreased amount of hemoglobin in the infant’s bloodstream affects the transfer of oxygen to the child’s organs. Yes, that sounds scary. According to the article’s author, Pretty Prairie had “one of the highest average concentrations of nitrates in the U.S. at 21.1 milligrams per liter.” 

Quick internet research turns up exactly zero cases of blue-baby syndrome in Reno County. At 21.1 mg/L, the Pretty Prairie samples are well below the World Health Organization’s  recommendation of 50 mg/L for drinking water. 

And the article failed to mention that Pretty Prairie and Norwich, which was also named as exceeding the federal nitrate limits, both have new water treatment plants that remove nitrate. 

The article research appears to be questionable at best. 

The Kansas Rural Water Association is dedicated to helping water utilities deliver safe and compliant drinking water to their customers. Tap water from the nearly 1,000 public water supplies is of a very high quality, such that waterborne disease is very nearly unheard of in this state. 

Daryn Martin, 

KWRA technical assistant,

Seneca, Kan.