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Kiger Presents Heavener Water Complaints to DEQ Featured

Written by  Tuesday, 06 August 2019 10:40
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State Rep. Lundy Kiger (R-Poteau) met with water officials at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality recently, presenting a list of complaints and pictures from Heavener residents who have received dirty water for many years.

 

Kiger shared two pages of complaints from people and business owners describing black to brown water coming out of the water lines into their homes and creating multiple issues. Issues range from not being able to drink or wash clothes to water not even coming out of the faucet at times. For instance, when the city’s Splash Pad is turned on, many residents and some businesses lose all water pressure.

 

“State law requires a minimum water pressure of at least 25 pounds constantly at each meter,” Kiger said. “In June, the city was without water for most of two business days causing restaurants, businesses and industries, to shut down. This causes lost production. They had to send their employees home and puts customer relations at risk.”

 

In addition to meeting with DEQ, Kiger has scheduled two additional public meetings on the water issue.

 

The first meeting is scheduled for noon Aug. 14 at the Donald W. Reynolds Center, 105 Reynolds Ave in Poteau.

 

Lunch will be provided. People wishing to attend should call the Poteau Chamber of Commerce at (918) 647-9178 to RSVP by the end of day on Friday, Aug 9.

 

The second meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 15 at the downtown Heavener Public Library, 203 E Ave. C in Heavener.

 

Both are to provide updates on where the city is on their plan and other related issues.

 

“The purpose of having a meeting in Poteau is to help make more people aware of this issue," Kiger said.

 

“It is our goal to inform individuals in the two-state region, as well as the economic development leaders in LeFlore County so they may to better understand the issues with Heavener’s water quality isn’t just a Heavener issue, but a regional issue that will affect us all.”

For example, OK Foods employs approximately 700 people with an annual payroll of about $21 million and pays approximately $400,000 annually in county property taxes, Kiger said. Other businesses include restaurants that employ numerous people in the community who all depend upon the businesses staying open so they can work and make a living, he said.

 

“Each time the water is bad or offline, businesses must close and send their employees home, resulting in neither earning the money they need to live,” Kiger said. “Water being too dirty or off too often has caused a loss in large contract agreements for some businesses. If our industries lose any more customers, they will be forced to find new contracts or shut down. The poultry processing plant gets their products from many small poultry farmers in the region who will be affected by this as well.”

 

Kiger held two Town Hall meetings previously and met with city leaders at the July City Council meeting, where he described the complaints from residents and explained that a third party looking into the water treatment facility and operations could be the fix needed to clean up the water quickly at very little expense.

 

Kiger told city leaders he realizes they didn’t create this problem, but now that they are in office it’s up to them to fix it. Kiger also told leaders he was here to help and didn’t care who gets this issue across the finish line.

 

“The bottom line is the citizens of Heavener must get clean and safe water in their community regardless,” he said. “My hope is that DEQ will get directly involved to help evaluate and determine what the city needs to do in providing clean and safe water for the city.”

Kiger said many residents have described to him how they have had to replace appliances that use water, including hot water tanks, washers and dish washers. Many have had to install expensive filtration systems and change the filters on an accelerated basis.

One industry is changing filters at a cost of over $9,000 per month just to try and improve the water coming from the city’s water plant for the water to meet their high federal standards, he said.

 

Kiger said there was an agreement with the city for a volunteer professional water technician to tour the water treatment facility at no cost to the city to conduct an evaluate. But, before the day arrived to tour the water treatment plant, the city pulled the plug on the agreement and said they would hire a different third party engineer to evaluate the operations of the plant.

 

Kiger told City Council members he doesn’t care who the third party engineer is as long as the findings are shared with the public for transparency. Kiger also told the Council it seems that local politics has gotten involved in decisions, and the Council needs to determine if a Council member has a conflict of interest with a relative working at the water treatment plant affecting decisions.

 

While making the presentation to DEQ, Kiger took samples of potable water from Heavener and raw water out of the Poteau River where Heavener draws its water to treat. The untreated river water was much cleaner than after being treated by the city, he said.

Kiger described to DEQ the conversations he’s had talking with water treatment professionals and engineers who have looked at the water and seen pictures of black water coming from city pipes. It appears the real problem may mostly lie with the water treatment facilities. Technicians may be over-using chemicals or not using enough chemicals at the right time. They also may not be adjusting for the changing conditions of the river and then overcompensating to try and rebalance the pH level, he said. This may be why on some days residents receive water that’s brown, purple, or black.

 

After the presentation, Kiger requested DEQ to become involved in trying to help the city of Heavener to determine what problems really exist in causing the water not to be consistently clean.

 

“There are days the water is clean, so this helps determine that the poor conditions of the water lines aren’t possibly the biggest reason the water is so discolored and unusable on many days,” Kiger said. “The city of Heavener is a beautiful city, and citizens deserve better for the water they are paying for and receiving. But, if the water issues aren’t resolved, Heavener won’t have to worry about trying to recruit new business, because no one will want to come there. City officials should jump at the chance for help from the state and understand the most important things are their citizens and the business and industries in their community.”

 

David Deaton

Digital Editor at Oklahoma Welcome

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