KONAWA — An aging water system, a recent storm and other problems have combined to create headaches for the town of Konawa.
The town has experienced repeated water shortages over the last month, due in part to leaking water lines, said Konawa City Clerk Shauna Farmer.
“We have very old infrastructure, and that’s a problem that we face almost daily,” she said. “We’ve had a little extra this month, as we are in the middle of a grant and we have contractors here. The contractors have hit a few lines themselves, so there’s been a little extra added to the leak problem.”
Farmer said Seminole County Emergency Management Director Von Wilcots helped officials secure donations of water to help meet demand, and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation contributed a water buffalo. In addition, the Konawa Fire Department put out a drop tank of non-potable water for people to flush their toilets.
A pump failure in early June, and a damaging storm later that month, also contributed to the town’s water problems. The storm knocked out power to the town’s well field near the Canadian River for a couple of days, so water could not be pumped back to storage tanks, which meant the town did not have enough water to meet demand.
The town’s old water tower has not been used for several years, so water is stored in two small tanks in a well field near the Canadian River. The water is automatically pushed to three tanks at the water plant and goes directly to Konawa from there.
“What that means is we just pump to straight usage,” Farmer said. “So whenever we have any kind of hiccup, it actually puts a big hiccup because we don’t have the storage to keep producing water.”
Konawa is currently upgrading its water system with the help of a $399,000 community development block grant from the Oklahoma State Department of Commerce. The town had already drilled three new wells and is using the state dollars to rehabilitate its old water tower so it can be used again, which would give Konawa at least three days’ worth of storage.
The state grant also provided funds to hook up the new wells to a transmission line that runs directly to the water tower. A $153,000 contribution from the Seminole Nation made it possible for the town to replace some of its worst water lines, starting on the northeast side.
Those projects, which will allow the city to provide better-quality water and more of it, should be completed by the end of the summer, Farmer said. The new water lines will eliminate leakage on the northeast side of town.
Next, the city will start work on replacing other water lines in town.
“The plan is to take the next step, which is to go ahead and apply for new (grants) to keep replacing lines,” Farmer said. “And we’re going to do that in sections and sections and sections.”
People who live and work in Konawa are feeling the pain of the town’s struggles to provide a consistent supply of usable water.
The city’s inability to fix those problems prompted the Central Oklahoma Family Medical Center to drill its own wells several years ago, said CEO Brenda Ware. She added that the medical center no longer relies on the town’s water system, but residents who depend on that system are hurting.
“For our patients and and our employees who live in Konawa, it’s devastating,” Ware said. “We have patients in who need exams that haven’t been able to have showers, don’t have water for laundry for dishes, things like that. So it’s very concerning.”
Ware said the situation was dire for Konawa residents, but she was optimistic that town officials would find a way to resolve it.
“They’re working as hard as they possibly can,” she said. “They’ve always fixed it in the past. The community does a good job of supporting those who have volunteered as city leaders. I think they will.”
Vice Mayor JaLean Hamilton said officials are working on solving the problem quickly.
“We all want the situation fixed as quickly as possible because we’re all in the same boat,” she said. “I want to take a shower too, and so we’re working on it as fast as we can.”