August 3, 2011 Edition

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Water project nearing completion

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Members of the Northeast Arkansas Public Water Authority (NEAPWA) will begin receiving water from the Authority's new plant by the end of September if all continues to go well, said A.J. Henry, authority chairman, on Thursday.

"The plant is scheduled for completion on Sept. 9," Henry said. "Our water lines have already been tested, but will be retested when the plant is completed." Members of the authority include Alicia, Hoxie, Sedgwick, Portia, Walnut Ridge and the Lawrence County Regional Water District (LCRWD).

"Our board meets the second Friday of each month, and our September meeting will be held at the new plant. Board members will be able to tour the new facility."

The authority will offer an alternative to tapping ground water by using surface water from the Spring River, something that is very important for Lawrence County, according to Henry.

"We are having to go deeper and deeper every year for ground water," said Henry. "The new plant will provide a long-term surface water supply for Lawrence County. We will be able to pump three-million gallons of water a day, and the water will be treated at the plant, eliminating the need for members to treat it. They will no longer have to pump it from the ground."

Gary Light, who serves on the authority board and the LCRWD board said lots of towns in western Lawrence County and in the Hardy area are having problems with their current water supplies. He said Smithville and Annieville are trying to get by with what they have until the authority is up and running.

"They are running out of water and are having to conserve their usage long enough for the water to replenish itself," Light said. "Right now the government has grant money to help offset the cost to connect to the new treatment plant. Before long those grants may not be available, and I'm concerned that many of the towns will find themselves without a dependable water supply."

"Those who use water from their own well may have water that is full of contaminants they are unaware of," he continued. "I had my well water tested by the Health Department in Little Rock by sending in a sample and paying a small fee. I received a four page report from them stating that the water from my well was not fit for human consumption.

"The way things are going, drinking water could get to be as expensive as buying gas. The authority is a good solution to the problem."

The more members the authority has, the more pumps they will be able to buy. Light said the plant would be capable of pumping 10 million gallons a day with extra pumps.

The water treatment plant will be totally enclosed, and water will be monitored at the plant and at the individual distribution centers, Henry said. The water will be transported by 83,000 feet of water lines that connect the plant to existing distribution centers, and is expected to be cost-effective for the water companies as they will not have to treat the water nor maintain the pumps used for ground water.

The project cost is approximately $11.5 million, with a large bulk of that money funded through USDA and Arkansas Natural Resources Commission using low-interest loans that will be paid back with revenues collected by the authority from its members. A total of $2 million in grants was also received. The authority received a $1.7 million rural development grant from the USDA and a $300,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority.

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