Stillwater News Press

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July 3, 2014

Perkins officials looking for water for residents

STILLWATER, Okla. — A month after the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality denied a fourth well for the city of Perkins, officials continue to try to find another source of water for residents.

City Manager Bob Ernst was appointed in January and immediately was thrust into dealing with the difficulties of establishing the water well. He estimates the attempts had been going on for eight to nine months, perhaps a year.

“DEQ advised me there was some issues with the well and told us not to proceed any further until we got a variance,” Ernst said. “There were several talks back and forth. We never did receive a decision in writing from DEQ denying the variance, but that’s where it was going because of all the issues with it.”

Tim Ward, the state agency’s assistant director of external affairs, said the well was drilled in November 2013 and a filed report didn’t show any violations at the time.

“It wasn’t until later that they wanted to complete the well, they came back to us and we started looking at the report in a little bit further detail,” Ward said.

“We were a little curious about the MTBE found in the water, and with that, we felt it’d be a good idea to sample again for that additive. It came back a little higher the second time, and Perkins decided it was a good idea not to complete that well.”

On May 29, Perkins officials were looking at drilling a well in a suitable location within the city, or possibly using the water rights it has with the Kaw Reservoir.

Ernst said to access those rights, the city would have to pay a storage fee to the Army Corps of Engineers of approximately $365,000. The fee would have to be paid in full by 2016, and the city would likely have to enlist the help of Rural Water District 3 to transport water from Stillwater because Stillwater’s water line that runs south doesn’t reach Perkins.

There were several issues with the proposed fourth water well, which was drilled immediately north of the Sonic Drive-in on State Highway 33 and would have pumped 200 gallons of water per minute to help the city address its needs. Now, there’s nothing more than a 28-inch pipe sticking out of the ground.

DEQ determined the well must be at least 300 feet away from standing water, 300 feet from a sewer line and 300 feet from a highway, and that the well violated other guidelines.

“There are about two pages of guidelines, most of it is distance separation from possible contaminants,” Ernst said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was there was a small amount of a chemical in the water called MTBE, which is the chemical they added to gasoline when they took the lead out.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, MTBE, or Methyl tert-butyl ether, it is not known that it can pose negative health effects to humans at concentrations between 20-40 ppb or below. However, there is insufficient data to estimate its potential health risks.

“Right now, it’s not a listed contaminant with the EPA; it’s on their list of contaminants to look at in the future,” Ward said. “In mobile and groundwater, levels of MTBE have risen over the years and it’s hard to break down. So they decided it needed to be researched further.”

Ernst said he is working with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to determine if part of a grant toward the project will have to be repaid. The OWRB granted $60,186.50 to the city of Perkins for the project and is doing an audit to determine if there can be exceptions made due to the circumstances of the project.

It will still cost the city of Perkins money; the total amount of money spent on the project was $133,496.76. Overall, the city paid $73,310.26 out of pocket.

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