Local officials are touting success with cleaner drinking water — an accomplishment than may go unnoticed by many.
With the turn of a knob or flip of a handle, a city’s water system goes into action, entering the homes of each resident by way of kitchen faucets, water hoses and shower heads.
The condition of that water is the primary focus of the Water and Sewer Maintenance Department at the City of Altus.
As any middle-school science student knows, the human body is about 70 percent water. That water hydrates cells that compose the body’s organs, muscles and bones, assists in the removal of toxins by way of the excretory system and is essential to the survival of all living organisms.
As Brian Richter of the Nature Conservancy and University of Virginia wrote for National Geographic “what you’ve basically got is…an ambulatory water balloon wrapped in flesh.”
With such a vital role, the effects of unclean water can be costly to a community’s health.
On a municipal level, water is collected and disbursed through the Water and Sewer Maintenance Department of the City of Altus.
According to Public Works Director Johnny Barron, the City of Altus has struggled for years to meet compliance levels of trihalomethanes, or THMs, that form when chlorine reacts with certain organic compounds that are naturally found in surface water.
As a necessary additive used to disinfect treated water, chlorine prevents bacterial growth while water travels through the distribution system.
According to Barron, the THM problem was fixed by rehabilitation of the city’s well field and the reverse osmosis treatment facility due to the inability of well water to react with chlorine due to the absence of organic chemicals and the absence of organics and minerals in reverse osmosis-treated water.
“Since April 2016, your drinking water is currently a three-way blend of conventionally treated water, RO treated water and well water. This has dropped the amount of organic compounds by 70 percent which has greatly reduced the formation of THMs,” Barron said.
Municipal water treatment facilities that produce and distribute public drinking water and that treat, transport, store and discharge wastewater are regulated by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, or ODEQ, Water Quality Division.
“Altus Water meets all federal and state water quality standards set by ODEQ,” Barron said. “This is big news. With the exception of a stretch from 2005 to 2010 when the reverse osmosis plant was operational, the City of Altus has been struggling with THMs compliance for about 30 years.”
The Water and Sewer Maintenance Department has three elevated tanks that each hold a maximum of 500,000 gallons of water that maintain pressure during periods of elevated use and provide extra volume to fire hydrants and more than 130 miles of main water lines and stores about 4 million gallons of treated water — about a day’s worth.
“We are extremely proud of the work accomplished by our water treatment operators,” Barron said.
Reach Katrina Goforth at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.