STILLWATER, Okla., Jul 20, 2011 -- Residents in Hughes County will soon benefit from improved drinking water quality. Rural Water District 2 in the southeast portion of the county has secured a $1.48 million USDA Rural Development grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The "stimulus" grant, coupled with an $840,000 loan and technical assistance from USDA Rural Development, will be used to rehabilitate three existing wells and develop two additional wells within the district.
Currently, water from Hughes Co. Rural Water District 2 is acquired from a small watershed reservoir and treated at a plant within the district. However, this water is high in both iron and manganese content, which causes undesirable color and taste. In addition, changing water quality standards and increased chemical costs since the water treatment plant was opened have caused the district's water quality to suffer.
"Just like countless other communities and regions of the state, this local water district is suffering from insufficient and antiquated infrastructure," said Ryan McMullen, State Director of USDA Rural Development. "So often small, rural communities simply don’t have the resources to replace aging infrastructure."
B.R. Calhoun, 68, agrees that aging infrastructure may be responsible for problems in both water quality and availability in the district. Calhoun, who lives southeast of Stuart, has been a patron of Rural Water District 2 since the district was created more than 35 years ago. Calhoun said he has experienced increased problems with both water quality and availability throughout the past few years.
"It's not easy to always live with it, but we know there is a brighter day ahead," Calhoun said. "If the wells end up functioning the way we expect, it should resolve the major problems. It'll be better for the community. The amount of times we will be without water will be minimized. We will have a system that is upgraded and will have a better rate on the pressure, and the consistency of the quality of the water and discoloration will improve."
Rehabilitating three existing wells and developing two additional wells will allow the district to abandon operation of the water treatment plant and convert the property to a storage facility. The cost of treating the higher quality water from the wells is anticipated to be significantly less than the cost of operating the existing water treatment plant, McMullen said.
A 20,000 gallon steel water storage tank will be constructed at the site of the new wells, and a generator will be installed at the wells as standby power supply. In addition, there will be approximately 25,000 LF of 6-inch water main installed as part of the project between the new well field and the district’s existing water storage facility.
"The Recovery Act provided the access to infrastructure dollars for which many communities have been searching for years," McMullen said. "Our loan and grant will not fix all of the water district's problems, but it is a huge step towards the quality water system that the folks in Hughes Co. deserve."
A contractor has been selected for the project, and construction is slated to begin when the loan is finalized within a month, McMullen said.
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