Rusting pipes causing brown water in Lepanto

LEPANTO, AR (KAIT) – Brown water and leaking roads are plaguing Lepanto residents.

Lepanto Mayor Steve Jernigan and the City Council are looking for a way to fund a replacement of the city's 13,000 ft. of corroded water pipes.

"(The system) has been in the ground since the 1920's. It's completely deteriorated," said Mayor Jernigan. "Who's going to pay for it is the question."

Mayor Jernigan took office in Jan. 2011. He says the brown water is the issue Lepanto residents discuss most with him.

"I probably had at least 200 complaints about brown water. The City's been threatened with probably a dozen lawsuits over brown water damaging their clothes."

Mayor Jernigan says in 2012 the City applied for $1 million in funding that was 50 percent grant/loan split, and the application was rejected.

In Feb. 2013 the City applied again and was offered a $1 million loan.

The Lepanto City Council decided against accepting the $1 million loan from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, and decided instead to pursue grants.

"What's going to happen in the future, I don't know, but if you want to solve the brown water problem, you're going to have to replace the lines because the water that's coming out of the ground is clear."

The old pipes bring more than just rusty water. Patch jobs to prevent leaks require digging up roads already in need of repair.

"We had a leak right up here on the corner about midway up the street that leaked for a good four, five, six months and it was like a little river right down through there," said Clay Brewer.

Mayor Jernigan said the road in front of Brewer's house was paved just a few years ago, and had to be deconstructed in order to repair the leaking pipe.

"There's no need to repair streets until you repair the water line so if you overlay the streets, then the next thing you know you got to dig the streets up."

Mayor Jernigan says if the City Council had decided to accept the loan the water bill would increase by a minimum of $3.50 cents per month. "But that's for those that pay the minimum bill, and it's a sliding scale that goes up for the larger water users."

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