UPDATE: According to HWH Mayor Kevin Smith Tuesday night, the National Guard and Arkansas Department of Emergency Management will be sending free water to West Helena. Here is a message from Smith’s Facebook page:
This evening, County Judge Clark Hall and the Emergency Management office for the county agreed to declare a public emergency for the West Helena (not Helena) water system. The purpose of this declaration is so the city will qualify for emergency water supplies to any citizens going without water until this problem is resolved. Now that the county has acted, the National Guard and ADEM are preparing to send help and are planning to set up free water at the Plaza Fire Station.
Smith said the level in a water tank serving West Helena is at zero because a well is out.
HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. — It’s hard to find a community that is not having some sort of water issue as a result of this week’s arctic blast.
“Boil Water” alerts have become a common practice as leaking and broken water mains make tap water undrinkable.
Deon Henderson lives in West Helena, Arkansas, with his parents and says water pressure has been very low for several days.
“I can’t shower. I didn’t shower yesterday either. So you can imagine how frustrated I am. I’m pretty much a real clean person. I shower twice a day most times,” he said.
The arctic blast that hit our region caused West Helena’s aging water system to fail, making it unable to pump water to this storage tank on a hill overlooking the city. From here, gravity sends the water to the customers below.
The water ran low as homeowners and businesses opened faucets to prevent pipes from freezing.
Henderson said sediment is coming through the pipes and sending muddy, undrinkable water into his parent’s home.
“It’s probably so low it’s just sucking up mud ’cause that’s what we getting. We getting mud out of the faucets…we’re not getting clear water period,” he said.
West Helena’s water system, which has a history of problems, is considerably older than the one in Helena and has been the subject of heated discussions by Helena-West Helena leaders.
Councilman Jo St. Columbia, Sr. says he tried as recently as two weeks ago to get fellow council members to second a motion to have the water pumping system repaired and ready ahead of severe winter weather. But no action was taken and St. Columbia says too late now.
“They’ve got some severe problems and we could have solved them some time ago. It’s been going on for a number of years. The lack of the Council moving quick enough to work with the water company,” Columbia said. We need to take action on it. We know what the problem is. We got to get it solved.”
The local hospital is getting water from the Helana system at this time.
One remedy being considered is pumping water from the Helena system to the West Helena system. For now, folks with water issues are being asked to stay patient.