YALE, Okla. (AP) The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality wants this Payne County community to chlorinate water from three shallow wells it drilled and to issue an order for residents to boil their water before drinking it or using it to cook.
The community drilled the 18-foot wells last week in an effort to cope with a water-supply crisis. It cost the town about $200,000 to drill the wells, which produce water not considered drinkable under current health standards and could be useless by spring.
``That's the gamble we have to take right now,'' said Carl Hensley, city manager of the small town east of Stillwater.
Yale is one of eight communities that get water from drought-parched Lone Chimney Lake, which continues to drop about an inch every day without the aid of rain. If it dries up entirely, about 16,000 people in north-central Oklahoma will be without drinking water.
Hensley said Yale leaders were not willing to wait for rain that may or may not come in early spring. By February, the lake could be all but gone.
To get through the drought, the town looked to a solution it abandoned around 2000 because of new environmental rules regarding shallow wells.
Hensley said the new plan was approved by DEQ.
``Obviously there is some miscommunication,'' said Monty Elder, spokeswoman for the state agency.
Wells as shallow as those in Yale are directly influenced by water on the ground, which can carry harmful bacteria and pollutants from runoff, Elder said. Federal groundwater rules prohibit water from shallow wells being used without being treated, she said.
Yale plans to use untreated water from the wells but will conduct periodic tests to make sure the water is not contaminated, Hensley said. Elder said the tests won't be enough.
Elder said her agency will work with Yale officials to make sure the water is safe for use before the wells are brought online.
Hensley said the town's current solution is not final, but the community cannot afford many of the alternatives, like building a water treatment plant or extending a large water line to Stillwater.
Hensley said he would like to connect the town to Stillwater's water system but cannot afford the $500,000 price tag. Grant money for such a project can be hard to find this late in the year, he said.
The original wells were dug by hand in the 1920s to supply water for an ice-making plant. The town took them over when the plant closed about 40 years ago, Hensley said.
The town continued to use them even after it started getting water from the Lone Chimney Lake Association, which formed in the 1980s.
The town learned of the new shallow-well requirements when it planned to re-drill the silt-filled holes around 2000, Elder said.