BARNSDALL — This community has a history of problems with water supply and water quality, but that’s changing rapidly and both state regulators and water-quality consultants who work with Barnsdall are taking note.


In a statement prepared for the Journal-Capital, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality credited the city of Barnsdall with equipping filters at its water plant with new media beds, buying new lab equipment, and providing the staff of the water plant with professional training and mentorship.


DEQ praised the level of cooperation that the city of Barnsdall has shown to state regulators in the process of identifying and addressing problems.


“We very much appreciate the level of communication and cooperation the administrative and operations staff have displayed,” DEQ said in a statement provided by department spokeswoman Erin Hatfield. “While it may take some time to address all the deficiencies, identifying and prioritizing which things to address first is big step for the city. Water systems don’t fix systematic problems overnight, they correct them one step at a time.”


Charles Schneider, of OMNI Water Consultants, Inc. in Vinita, has worked with Barnsdall city officials and water plant employees and he said that he initially found major equipment deficiencies, automation deficiencies and a chemical-related issue.


Schneider said two of three filters at the water plant have now been rehabilitated and the chemical situation has changed, so that Barnsdall is currently using three chemicals rather than five — the three they need to get the job done.


Schneider credited water plant supervisor Kristopher Davis with having taken a very serious and proactive approach to monitoring water quality.


“He’s doing fantastic. His quality control mindset is beautiful,” Schneider said of Davis. Schneider added that Mayor Johnny Kelley has been instrumental, adding that he’s never seen a mayor get so personally involved in water plant improvements.


“They’re making huge steps, doing the best they can,” Schneider said.


Davis said that he and colleague Jacob Garrett are currently the only two water plant operators. The city intends to hire a third plant operator, which will allow the implementation of a three-shift system and, as a result, 24-hour monitoring.


Barnsdall is a community of about 1,240 people located along State Highway 11. The municipal water supply comes from Lake Waxhoma.


Davis said the city intended to move ahead and change out the filter media for the third water filter at the plant. He noted that the filter media for all three filters at the Barnsdall plant had never before been replaced in succession — pretty much at the same time.


Mayor Kelley said one of the most noticeable changes as a result of municipal water system improvements is that there was no prolonged water outage in the summer of 2019 — something that had been a chronic problem in previous summers.


Davis said the mayor provided his own equipment when needed, and Davis said the mayor also made connections with others in the Barnsdall community who could help. Among businesses and public agencies that have offered the city of Barnsdall tangible assistance with water system improvements, Davis cited Baker-Hughes and the Osage County Sheriff’s Office, which sent inmate laborers.


Davis and Garrett explained that Schneider, the water consultant, has made himself available at all hours, and that communication between the city of Barnsdall and DEQ has become extremely regular.