Cushman ‘boil order’ lifted

Updated: Mar. 9, 2021 at 8:14 AM CST
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CUSHMAN, Ark. (KAIT) - The city of Cushman announced Tuesday, March 9, that the Arkansas Department of Health has lifted a boil order.

On Friday, they planned to slowly begin opening customer meters to prevent draining the supply and keeping the water service working.

According to a post on the town’s Facebook page, officials said people will see fluctuation in water pressure and service as work is being done. Officials are still asking people to conserve water as work is being done.

According to a post on the town’s Facebook page, the water tanks Thursday was about two-thirds full and holding. The city is getting water from Batesville and Arkansas Rural Water and Batesville Water are working to turn on lines, one line at a time, to check for leaks.

Officials also said the city’s spring is pumping again.

Days after Cushman’s decades-old system shut down, city leaders said this week that water was slowly returning to residents’ homes.

Mayor Brittany Hurley told Region 8 News on Feb. 24 that Water Superintendent Mike Wood and Susan Powe with USDA Rural Water have been checking meters “one by one, shutting off the ones that are leaking.”

Powe has also brought in more equipment and workers, Hurley added.

“We are slowly gaining water,” the mayor said. “Some residents are beginning to see water in their homes, again.”

During last week’s winter storms and frigid temperatures, the city’s nearly 60-year-old system failed, leaving residents without water for more than 6 days.

While water is slowly returning, she urges residents to continue limiting usage.

“This means laundry and dishes,” she said. “Be respectful and mindful of those who still do not have water.”

Hurley says it will cost the city approximately $1 million to get it out of the current emergency situation which does not include a long-term fix.

Independence County Judge Robert Griffin and others are reportedly working to get a state or federal declaration issued to pay for the project.

In the meantime, the newly formed water board and city council decided during a specially called meeting Tuesday night to raise water rates across the board by 10 percent.

According to Hurley, the new rates are set at $23.10 for 0-1,000 gallons; and $7.65 for 1,001 and more gallons. The rates had been $21 and $6.95, respectively.

Cushman officials said on Facebook Wednesday that Home Depot has donated cases of water that are available to be picked up at the school parking lot.

Also, officials are asking people to conserve water as much as possible to help fill the city’s water tanks. Officials are also asking people to check their home for leaks and to get those leaks repaired as soon as possible.

“If you have leaks and your meter is still on, please contact the water department ASAP,” Cushman officials said on Facebook.

Region 8 News reported on Cushman’s water woes in 2016, 2017, 2019, and on Feb. 17 of this year.

Hurley said the 1960s water system has been a problem for at least 30 years now.

“This severe weather storm took us out completely, it’s been an ongoing issue with our water in the past” she said. “So, this was just the icing on the cake.”

The system ultimately failed, resulting in the National Guard bringing in a 2,000-gallon water tank for 500 citizens. On Tuesday, the Guard refilled the tank, which is parked on the old Cushman School grounds. Home Depot in Batesville and Jonesboro also donated 6 pallets of bottled water and containers.

Many of those citizens showed up at Monday’s city council meeting to voice their concerns and offer solutions.

Some suggested providing the city with more funding and manpower after Wood said it was only him and one other person addressing everything. He also said at the time there was not enough money to resolve all of the problems, and they probably would never have enough.

Despite many being without water, Mayor Hurley confirmed $35,143.96 was owed to the water company over the past 60 days from citizens still receiving services.

During Monday’s meeting, several in the crowd questioned why the city did not shut off service to those who had not paid.

“Our system has been so inadequate for so many years. We have not been keeping it up for 40 years,” one resident told the council. “We need to raise these water bills so we can get some money to pay Mike Woods to go out here and fix these leaks.”

On Wednesday, Hurley said that all past-due customers would receive a shutoff notice.

“After 60 days their meter will be shut off,” she told Region 8 News. “They will have 10 days to pay their amount due, plus their $25 shutoff fee and a $25 reconnect fee.”

For those who do not pay their bill within that time, Hurley said the city will take legal action.

During Monday’s meeting, the city council implemented a water board to focus on solutions, funding, and getting those water bills paid.

The board is comprised of Tim Brown, Dustin Sanders, Michael Hatfield, Bryan Harman, Jim Augusta, Danny Carter, and Patrick Collins.

“We’re looking at millions. It’s going to be a multi-million-dollar project,” Hurley said. “It’s going to be a very expensive process. It’s not going to be an overnight quick fix. It’s going to be long. We are looking at right now getting the crisis taken care of, getting water back on for the residents, once that’s over, we will start looking at a long-term procedure to set something in place.”

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