GraceMed Health Clinics will offer no-cost screening and blood tests for residents who fear they have been exposed to the cancer-causing chemical TCE identified in the 29th and Grove contamination area.
“Our CEO, Venus Lee, has been able to acquire private donations that enable us to make this testing available to the community,” said GraceMed Chief Medical Officer Dr. Julie Elder. “We know the fear that many residents are feeling, especially if they know they either drank water from a groundwater well or played in water sprinklers using water from a well.”
The pollution in the area was first detected in 1994 and is believed to come from a spill years or decades earlier at the Union Pacific rail yard near 29th and Grove.
The cancerous chemicals percolated through the soil and contaminated groundwater from the spill site south about three miles to Murdoch, before the spread was halted by a remediation well.
Remedial activity has been ongoing but unnoticed, and most residents were not aware of a problem until last fall when the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment announced a meeting to discuss plans for further remediation.
Elder said the testing will include urine and blood analysis to look for problems that indicate health issues from TCE exposure. The chemical, used to degrease metal, is known to cause kidney, bladder and liver cancers.
In the first health survey conducted of the area since the contamination was discovered, KDHE determined the rate of liver cancer in the contamination area is roughly double that in the rest of the city.
“Many residents remember drinking from a garden hose that was connected to a groundwater well,” Elder said. “We understand their fear and concern and we wanted to help. There are a lot of people in the area who have groundwater wells even though they have city water service.”
Further Groundwater Use
A groundwater well enables a homeowner to avoid the cost of using city water for watering lawns or gardens or filling splash pools for children.
KDHE has advised that using the water for watering vegetable gardens is safe because the chemical breaks down rapidly when exposed to the air and the roots of plants do not take it up from the soil.
It should not be used in lawn sprinklers that may splash it on exposed skin and should never be used to fill a wading or swimming pool.
Union Pacific has agreed to pay for the cleanup, which is expected to take another 10 to 15 years.