Remember the 850 dead fish. If that falls short as a rallying cry for upgrading Wichita’s sewer and water infrastructure, though, city leaders need only recall the sting of the $243,195 state fine for the 2012 sewage release that killed those fish in the Arkansas River. And the city got off easy this time, because KDHE let what would have been another $455,000 fine be spent instead on a citywide study of deferred sewer maintenance. The $11 million the city has banked for sewer repairs this year and next is great as far as it goes. But as Mayor Carl Brewer warned in his State of the City address this year, the city will need $2.1 billion over the next 30 years to maintain or replace the majority of its water, sewer and storm-drainage systems. Brewer and the rest of the City Council need to find the money and political will soon to tackle this long-term challenge, so more fish kills and fines can be avoided.
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