The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) today announced the results of the health study conducted on the 29th and Grove environmental site in Wichita.
“Today’s announcement is the fulfillment of a commitment made in the public meeting late last year,” Leo Henning, KDHE Deputy Secretary of Environment, said. “We look forward to continuing to provide guidance and work with the community, elected officials, the local health department, contractors, and others to ensure this site continues to be remediated.”
The 29th and Grove site is along the northern part of a Union Pacific Railroad rail yard south of K-96 Highway, between Interstate 135 and Grove Street, in Wichita. The contamination, thought to have begun before 1994, originated with a leak of chemicals at the Union Pacific rail yard. It was identified in 1998.
Since 1998, KDHE has engaged Union Pacific in the investigation and remediation efforts to address the contamination. On September 8, 2022, KDHE held a public meeting to present a proposed final Corrective Action plan. Subsequent meetings have been held.
KDHE performed the health study on over 2,500 addresses representing the affected area, or the “area of interest.”
- The rate of liver cancer was higher in the area of interest than in Sedgwick County or in Kansas.
- In particular, the rate of liver cancer among non-Hispanic Black persons in this area was more than twice the rate compared to the same population in Kansas.
- Rates of low birthweight among infants in the area of interest were higher than in Kansas, though those rates decreased from 2000 to 2021.
“There are many factors that may affect someone’s health outcomes, including environment, lifestyle, and family medical history. KDHE cannot determine if cancers and other health outcomes found in the community are associated with the spill itself or are influenced by these other factors.” Farah Ahmed, MPH, Ph.D., environmental health officer and state epidemiologist, said. “This study can only report on whether an increase was observed, not the cause of the increase.”
The study reviewed rates of other health conditions, including cancers (kidney and renal pelvis, urinary bladder, myeloma and lymphomas), congenital disabilities, and infants born small for gestational age, and found no other notable increases.
KDHE plans to hold a public meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the outcomes of the health study.
Read the complete health study.
For background on the incident, information on the Corrective Action Plan and FAQs about the impacts of the contamination on public health, visit the 29th and Grove webpage.