TUCKERMAN, Ark. – Over the weekend, the water turned brown for some yet again in Tuckerman.
However, hopes were slightly lifted as a powerful consumer advocate with national fame took notice and mentioned the matter.
Erin Brockovich, a consumer advocate for environmental issues, shared the tainted “tea” photo with over 600,000 on her Facebook page June 17.
“This is the Drinking Water in Tuckerman, Arkansas today,” Brockovich wrote. “Sadly, thousands of consumers face this quality of drinking water everyday. Some water is potentially much more harmful, like in Southern Oklahoma Water Corporation’s service area located in Carter County and northern Love County, they are on a boil water order for deadly E. Coli bacteria. Boil water orders are more than just an inconvenience. They seriously harm our fragile local economies. schools, stores, hotels, restaurants and bars. All suffer serious financial consequences.”
A 2000 biographical film starring Julia Roberts portraying Brockovich on the silver screen grossed over $250 million at the box office and made the consumer advocate a nationally recognized figure.
When Janice Rounds turned her faucet on the day after Brockovich’s post on Facebook, which she shared, she found a dark liquid instead of water coming from the pipes.
“Guess that pump it out again,” Rounds wrote. “Less than a week ago the excuse for brown water was a pump. Wonder what it will be on this time?”
One person replying to her post described it as looking like “poop water.”
However, for Rounds and many others, bathing, laundry, cooking and normal household tasks are impeded by the routine water issues facing the small community. Despite years of complaints and thousands of shares on social media, issues persist and residents, both current and former, seem to be angrier than ever about the matter.
Members of the water department were meeting with the Tuckerman mayor, Ron Coller, Wednesday morning, office staff told NEA Report. Coller took over for former mayor Larry Bowen, who resigned in April.
The good news is, the issue should be in the past soon, said Heath Vaughan, owner of Clear Water Utilities. Five years back, Vaughan’s company was hired by Tuckerman to find out why the water was brown and to fix it.
“We realized this current plant was in trouble,” Vaughan said. “It’s been neglected and abused for years. We immediately started helping them get engineering services, first thing on our list being to build a new water treatment facility.”
The facility was scheduled to be completed by June 6 but Vaughan said contractor delays have put it up to 90 days behind schedule. Still, facing 20 years of water woes, 90 days could be a short time to wait for the problem to be solved.
Even though the water looks unattractive, Vaughan said the water was not polluted but rather, turned brown because of sediment drawn into the supply.
“It’s naturally occurring mineral in well water,” Vaughan said. “When it comes out of the well, it doesn’t look brown, but once you hit it with an oxidizer, like chlorine, it turns it the nastiest brown you ever seen. It’s not pollution. It’s just a mineral we have to deal with.”
A pump failure two weeks ago caused the recent surge in brown water, he said, but he added the water department can flush out lines in a neighborhood for people still experiencing the issue and urged residents to contact the department if they still experience tainted H2O.
“There’s some folks that live on dead in lines and there’s the potential for that to still been there,” he said.
Vaughan said it has taken five years to get through the red tape and to be at the brink of completion for the new water treatment facility. He acknowledged problems in the past, including an abused water facility, but urged residents to understand the problem is being addressed and should be resolved soon.
“We look for them to be complete within 60 or 90 days where we will be producing water but all of that depends on contractor,” Vaughan said.