TOPEKA (KSNT) – What is the process state officials follow to issue boil water advisories (BWA)?

Residents of Riley and Chase County have recently been under BWAs for potentially contaminated water. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) handles the issuance of boil water advisories.

Whenever a situation occurs that can be an imminent substantial endangerment to health, KDHE issues BWAs or boil water orders (BWO). The KDHE has a flowchart they follow detailing the process for issuing BWOs and BWAs.

What is a BWA?

Whenever there is a potential risk of contamination in a water supply, the KDHE or public water system (PWS) will issue a BWA. BWAs are issued whenever contaminations aren’t confirmed, according to the KDHE.

What is a BWO?

BWOs are issued when the KDHW has confirmed the contamination of a water supply.

What happens when a BWO or BWA is issued?

When BWOs or BWAs are issued the KDHE and PWS will follow a specific process to notify the public and local officials.

First, the KDHE will notify KDHE districts, media outlets, county health departments, the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) for food safety and the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.

The local PWS will notify customers, county emergency managers, schools, local medical facilities, local businesses and industry and other necessary local officials.

Next, the PWS will work to correct the cause of the BWA or BWO. The PWS will flush and disinfect the area. Then the PWS will measure chlorine in the system. Samples of water from the system are then collected by the PWS and delivered to a KDHE lab.

It takes about 24 hours for sample results to determine if samples have bacteria. If the sample finds bacteria is absent, the KDHE can issue a rescind notice for the BWA. If samples are bacteria-positive, the PWS will repeat the system flush, chlorine check and submit another sample to the KDHE.

According to the City of Emporia, water main breaks can be isolated, disinfected, and flushed to avoid meeting the criteria to contact KDHE for BWA.

Flowchart courtesy of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

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