Okmulgee Water Line Break Poses Challenges For Businesses, City
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma - The water is back on in Okmulgee and kids will be back in school Tuesday, but problems with the city's aging water infrastructure are far from over.
In fact, Okmulgee city leaders say it could take millions to replace the old lines; until then, patching the damage is all the City can do until it can come up with the money to overhaul the water system.
The break happened around 4 a.m. Tuesday, causing most of the city to lose water. As a result, all of the schools shut down, right along with businesses.
Okmulgee city water employees had to go about 20 feet underground to fix the break in a nearly 65-year-old water line and restore water to 40,000 customers, businesses and schools.
Okmulgee resident Jerry Jarvis said, "Everything, everything revolves around the water."
When Jarvis got up Tuesday morning, initially, he thought the plumbing went out, but he wasn’t shocked to learn there had been a water line break.
Jarvis said, "65 years, those pipes have got to be trash. They've gotta have roots sewer, there ain't no telling what’s in that, but they have done so much work to try to improve that."
The break is near the water treatment facility, but it's surrounded by swampy land and a lot of trees; crews had to build a road to get to it.
Mayor Steven Baldridge said it’s a minor problem compared to what's really needed.
"Our city is over a 100 years old, and our infrastructure is roughly 65 years old, so we're in the process now of replacing mains and upgrading our system, so we are a constantly doing that. It's a never-ending cycle," Baldridge said.
To replace just one portion of the water system, it'll cost about $1 million - money the city doesn't have. And Baldridge said it's hard to predict the breaks.
"You just never know. With the earth shifting, and the heating and cooling of the earth, it causes these breaks and it's just a part of life," he said.
For Jarvis, he said after a long day at work, he'll be happy to see the water running again.
"It's not a want, it's a need," he said.
The City's emergency manager said the boil order advisory is still in effect.