5 towns, portion of Lawrence Co. to get new water source

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

BLACK ROCK, AR (KAIT) -- In just a matter of weeks, five towns and a portion of Lawrence County will be getting their water from a new source, the Spring River.

When the levels in your drinking water wells go lower, lower, lower and the costs go higher, higher, higher to make them deeper, deeper, deeper. Water authorities know they have to turn somewhere else to find a source for fresh water.

For the Northeast Arkansas Public Water Authority this plant was thought about a long ways out. A.J. Henry Jr. the water board chairman calls it long range planning.

Henry, "We looked down the road and saw that there was going to be a need for water because surface water was going to be a plentiful supply where ground water was not going to continue you the way it is now."

Matt Dunn the engineer who designed the water system for the Black Rock plant as well as the Batesville and Pocahontas plants which also tap into a river source, says this was a logical site for the plant.

Dunn, "We chose this spot to take advantage of the water quantity from both the Eleven Point and the Spring Rivers." The plant will only use about 1 percent of all the water flowing down the river, less than the farmers that tap into them to irrigate crops.

The new water treatment plant off Highway 361 will serve Alicia, Hoxie, Portia, Sedgwick and Walnut Ridge as well as portions of the Lawrence County Regional Water Service area. The pipe is already in place and there is expansion built into the water plant to add more outflow sources when other customers come on board.

Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House says their water is pretty rough and he and the city is looking forward to the new water.

House, "We're going to be getting serviced water that's going to be treated when it arrives in Walnut Ridge, we don't have to go through the treatment facility."

Dunn stood by the 12 inch input pipe that comes into the plant and showed me the chemical inputs. "We feed 3 chemicals into the process right here as soon as it comes into the plant."

More chemicals are added to the water as it passes through the steps of the filtration plant. The process takes about 2 hours from river to drinkable and they can move a lot of water.

Dunn, "Three million gallons per day or 21 Hundred gallons per hour." There are two filtration "trains" operating side by side. One can be shut down for maintenance or repairs while the other side can still filter water.

Electricians are still at work on the finishing touches, there will be sensors in the lines and tanks allowing operator/manager Joseph Jansen to keep an eye on the process 24/7.

It has taken nearly 12 years to see this project to fruition with the vast majority of wait time looking for funding. Dunn says the first shovelfuls of dirt was turned on the first of January of 2010. The plant is built well above flood levels so even though operators may not be able to get to the plant if it floods it won't get into the building. The project should be completed sometime in October.

Henry says he has been waiting for this project to be done for a long time.

"It's something that's needed now but it's something that's going to be needed to a much, much, greater degree in the future."

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