McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

January 16, 2014

Water supply problems solved

Stonewall — A series of problems plaguing Stonewall’s water supply has been resolved and the supply is back to normal, city administrator Dennis Heath said Thursday.

Officials have taken steps to restore water levels in the town’s storage tanks, but it will take time for the substance that produced cloudy, brown water to leave the system, Heath said.

“It’s going to take a week or so for all that stuff to be flushed out of the system,” he said.

He said the presence of ferrous iron makes the water look unsightly, but it does not create a health hazard.

Stonewall resident Heather Blackwell said the problems began Jan. 6, when she noticed that her faucets were producing brown, muddy water. She said city officials shut off the water and turned it back on the next day, but the water was still dirty.

Blackwell said the problem forced her to drink bottled water and take showers at the hospital where she works.

“We bathe in it — it’s kind of like bathing in lake water,” she said in a phone interview.

She said muddy water was still flowing from her faucets as of Wednesday afternoon.

Heath said the water in the town’s main tower and a large storage tank at the treatment plant froze sometime last week, causing the sensors to fail. The sensors were unable to send a signal to activate the pumps supplying water, so both storage tanks were emptied.

At about the same time, a water main broke on Main Street and the flow rate from the town’s wells dropped to about half its normal rate.

Heath said officials think the freeze that caused the sensors to fail was also responsible for the broken water main.

“We believe that it is, simply because it happened during the same time frame,” he said.

Officials also discovered that the valve on an artesian well west of town was wide open, contributing to the lower-than-normal flow rate, Heath said. He said officials asked the well’s owner to close the valve and the flow rate improved when needed.

Officials decided last Friday to shut off the water supply temporarily in hopes of boosting the levels in the tower and storage tanks, Heath said. He said once officials made that decision, they posted notices at several sites around town.

Officials also called several residents about the shutoff and asked them to spread the word.

Town officials shut off the water supply between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. last Friday and Saturday, which brought the levels in the storage tank and the tower closer to normal.

Another problem was attributed to turbulence in the water, which stemmed from efforts to boost the water levels in the tower and storage tank. Ferrous iron had collected in the water tower and the pipes, and the turbulence caused that substance to escape into the water supply.

Heath said town officials have already taken steps to upgrade the water distribution system, and last week’s problems highlighted the need to move forward with those plans.

Officials are applying for grants to replace the water tower, install new pipes and rehabilitate the two wells that feed into the system.

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