Despite State Assistance, Water Problems Worsening in Konawa

Oct 17, 2013

Justin Johnson, a wastewater treatment plant operator in Konawa, OK, stands near some of the town's water wells in December 2012.
Credit Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Many of the 1,500 or so residents of Konawa, in Seminole County, are once again without water as the town continues to grapple with the ongoing breakdown of the pipes, mains, and pumps that deliver water to homes and businesses.

The problem isn’t confined to Konawa, but as StateImpact reported in December2012, Konawa’s struggles are a good illustration of the kind of issues faced by small towns with aging water infrastructure. Some of its water pipes were more than 80 years old, and had received little to no maintenance.

Pipeline problems cut off water to the entire community in November 2012. The pipes were replaced, with the help of a $100,000 grant from Oklahoma Water Resources Board. But this time, wells unable to keep up with demand are being blamed for the outages.

KWTV’s Dana Hertneky has been following the situation in Konawa and talking with residents, like Anna and Milton Courtney, who’ve lived in there since 1954:

It’s been more frequent that it’s off than it is on,” said Anna referring to their running water.

This time they haven’t had water since Sunday. And the water they now have to save up all around the house is starting to run out.

“Let me just say we’re getting desperate,” said Milton.

The situation is particularly bad for Konawa’s few local businesses:

…Julia Merriman keeps a pot of water warm on her stove to rinse the hair of customers of her beauty salon. She hauls the water in from her daughter’s house in the country that has a well.

“You can either go heat water and keep it going or shut the door and go home and being self-employed that doesn’t work,” said Merriman.

That $100,000 grant from the OWRB also went toward improvements to two of Konawa’s nine water wells. But the current city manager tells KWTV the old city manager, Rita LoPresto, was in charge of that project, and “those wells weren’t put in correctly.”

LoPresto was fired in February after nearly six years on the job, the Ada News reports.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma’s public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.