Stillwater News Press

Local News

June 14, 2014

Pawnee declares water emergency

STILLWATER, Okla. — City officials in Pawnee declared a state of emergency last week to clear the way for the city to start digging two more wells for a secondary municipal water supply.

Pawnee Mayor Brad Sewell said the city, which has a population of about 2,200, used Lone Chimney Water Association as a secondary water supply until critically low levels at Lone Chimney forced it to tie into Stillwater’s system.

Pawnee has its own treatment plant that chlorinates raw water from Pawnee Lake, the city’s main supply. The city previously mingled water from Lone Chimney with water it treated.

Using water Lone Chimney buys from Stillwater isn’t an option because Stillwater treats its water with chloramine and Pawnee uses chlorine.

The two can’t be combined.

Sewell said it would require converting Pawnee’s treatment plant or installing a system to “burn out” the chloramine. Both options are expensive.

Unfortunately, Pawnee Lake is critically low and the city needs a secondary water source quickly.

“We’re only two feet above the intake,” Sewell said. “I’ve been going through all the doomsday scenarios with the engineer.”

He said rationing has been in place since last year and the city has encouraged people to use less with price controls that double water rates when usage climbs over a certain level.

The city talked to oil companies about pumping raw water from the Arkansas River directly into Pawnee Lake as a short-term solution but has hesitated because of the threat of introducing Zebra Mussels from the river.

Pumping river water would cost Pawnee about $2,500 a day but a company has proposed doing it at no charge in exchange for a lease on mineral rights.

Sewell said when the new wells are complete, raw water can be pumped from them to the city’s treatment plant.

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