Water quality concerns continue

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

The city of Pawhuska on March 1 and March 4 issued a non-emergency public notice regarding a higher-than-standard level of a water disinfection byproduct in some water samples.

The opening paragraph of the water notice provided to Pawhuska municipal water customers says that the city’s water system “recently violated drinking water standards” and adds that water users “have a right to know what happened.”

The notice goes on to say that some of Pawhuska’s water samples violated a standard for “total trihalomethanes.” Trihalomethanes are chemical byproducts that are formed when chlorine and other disinfection chemicals are used in water supplies to kill off microbial contaminants.

This is the second time in two years that the city of Pawhuska has issued a notice to water users about a violation of the total trihalomethanes standard. The city issued a notice March 1, 2017, about a total trihalomethane violation. Ward 2 Councilman Steve Holcombe has posted copies of both the 2017 notice and the 2019 notice online for public viewing.

Holcombe also posted online a question he received from a local resident, asking why city government had not done more to prevent the most recent violation. The councilman, who is currently running for re-election, posted a response to that question.

“Time for direct citizen comment,” Holcombe wrote. “Time for direct involvement. Time for a plan.”

The Journal-Capital separately sought comment from both Holcombe and his opponent, Jourdan Foran, about the water notice. Neither candidate replied before the deadline for the current edition of the paper. The general election for the Ward 2 seat is April 2.

The newspaper also asked City Manager Larry Eulert about the 2019 water notice. Eulert said the key problem that led to the violation was that water lines were not sufficiently flushed before samples were taken. He added that the problem has been addressed.

“There’s a lot of things we can get in trouble for, but that shouldn’t be one of them,” Eulert said, emphasizing the issue of line flushing has been addressed.

The water notice says there is nothing that water users need to do unless they have severely compromised immune systems, have infants in the household or are elderly. Persons falling into those categories are encouraged to seek advice from their healthcare providers about drinking water.

The notice adds that the problem has been addressed by replacing carbon on filters and increasing hydrant flushing. The water notice was not listed as a specific agenda item on the Pawhuska City Council agenda for the March 12 meeting.