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Boil order issued for Bixby neighborhood waiting for water restoration

Posted at 10:11 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 19:02:22-04

BIXBY, Okla. — The City of Bixby issued a precautionary Boil Order in the Lake Bixhoma Estates neighborhood as residents continue their wait for usable water.

Residents have been feeling the effects of an unauthorized withdrawal more than a week earlier. The city released its latest update for residents late Friday afternoon saying its new pump station had been delivered.

Pump disinfection and commissioning are expected to start Friday night and be completed by Saturday night.

Bixby Mayor Brian Guthrie posted an explanation of his own on the city's status on Thursday on his Facebook page before the pump's delivery:

Monday afternoon, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell issued a statement as residents went on nearly a week without water:

I’ve been in communication with Bixby city officials and am working with them to resolve this issue. I’ve been in contact with a number of agencies trying to find a solution and will continue working with them until the water is back on.

Neighbors near 171st Street filled up five-gallon buckets of water with a mobile water unit provided by the City of Bixby.

"We have no running water in our house to flush our toilets, to do dishes, to bathe, anything like that," said Shawna Poindexter.

Shawna and her husband Craig Poindexter have a flower farm with 1,500 square feet of cut flowers. The Poindexters say the flowers are wilting because they don't have water.

"I am concerned. I have a lot of time and money invested in this for this to just wilt away," said Shawna Poindexter.

"The point in the season we are with no rain, and it being this dry and then a water crisis happening on top of that, it's just the worst timing ever," said Craig Poindexter.

Several other neighbors were dealing with the same problem.

"We have no water coming out of our faucet. We brush our teeth with bottled water. Our little garden we have to use buckets," said Tedra Korf.

Saturday evening, the City of Bixby said they acquired four portable restroom trailers for residents. The bathrooms have toilets and sinks. They started being delivered around 6 p.m. Saturday.

The toilets will be in the following locations:

  • 18132 S. 158 E. Ave. (West Side of Roadway) 4 toilets
  • 18209 S. 158 E. Ave. ( West Side of Roadway) 2 Toilets
  • 15648 E. 184 St. S. (South Side of Roadway) 4 Toilets
  • 18110 S. 156 E. Ave. (West Side of Roadway) 4 Toilets

MORE >>> Restrooms, showers set up for Bixby residents without water

Bixby city officials told 2 News last week they identified a significant, unauthorized water withdrawal from the system in the Bixhoma Lake vicinity. They said that withdrawal impacted water tank levels which limited supply pump capacity.

Last Friday evening, the City of Bixby released more information on the issue.

As the most remote and highest portion of the Bixby utility service area, the properties surrounding Bixhoma Lake are particularly vulnerable to water distribution system fluctuations. In order to mitigate variabilities in daily and seasonal water pressure supply received from the Tulsa system over the long term, a booster pump station was budgeted for Fiscal Year 2023, beginning July 1st of this year. The construction contract for this project was awarded on July 11th, coincident with funding availability.

Unfortunately, earlier this week the Bixhoma system experienced significant, unauthorized use which greatly reduced the operating buffer levels in our storage tanks, which to this point in the summer had performed without incident. As tank levels began to drop on Wednesday, City Staff initiated emergency operation responses measures. Transmission lines were switched to provide dedicated services to south and east Bixby to maximize water flow and pressure to that area. Staff began system data collection and analysis, such as storage tank levels, line pressures, and water consumption. This information is being utilized to identify systems impacts and guide response recovery measures. The objective is to stabilize water pressure and flow to the Bixhoma area as well as restore water storage tank levels.

Field crews have been working on two (2) fronts. They are providing an emergency potable water supply station for affected residents and are also working to purge entrapped air from affected lines. In an effort to accelerate the process, crews are hauling and adding additional water to the system.

The speed at which these efforts can be brought to completion are dependent on available system pressures and water volumes. Therefore, we request that all Bixby customers make every effort to conserve water over the next few days, so that we can restore service to our neighbors. Crucial time periods to tank level recovery are during the overnight and early morning hours. We will continue to implement the actions outlined above in the days ahead until operations return to normal.

Wagoner County Rural Water District 4 says they got water from the city of Bixby this week. RWD 4 business manager Thomas Faulk says they were authorized to buy water from the City of Bixby for a few days earlier this week.

Faulk says water districts have inter-local agreements that help water districts if they are short or it there's a leak. Faulk says the City of Bixby notified RWD 4 that they could no longer supply water so they turned off the valve.

2 News Oklahoma's Naomi Keitt asked the City of Bixby in an email if RWD 4 was responsible for the "unauthorized withdrawal."

The City does not have any record of a request for Emergency Water Use or withdrawal by Wagoner County No. 4 nor has any emergency permission been granted for use by outside water providers. Nor has any Emergency Permission been granted for any amount of water use, let alone the significant amounts withdrawn from the Bixhoma area system earlier this week.

No water billings have been issued or payments received for July usage.

"I just want honesty, and I want to know what's going on," said Tedra Korf.

The City of Bixby says crews are pumping air from the lines so the water tank can fill back up. City leaders say low supply pressures are slowing progress, but crews will continue to isolate the transmission line serving the Bixhoma area to provide additional water supply and pressure. They released a timeline of the water supply activity.

Bixhoma Lake Water Supply Activity

  1. Booster Pump acquisition and construction approved
  2. 7/13 (Wednesday) morning – all system operations normal
  3. 7/13 (Wednesday) midday – tank levels continued to fall throughout the day
  4. Low tank levels prompted emergency operation response
    - ​Mingo transmission line switched to provide dedicated service to south and east Bixby only
    - Data collection to review and monitor system impacts over time
    1. System pressures – from Tulsa connection to Bixhoma Water Storage tank
    2. Tank level
    3. Water usage
    - Identified and stopped unprecedented, unauthorized water usage.
    - Identify line segments with entrapped air due to drop in tank level
    - Begin purging air from affected lines
    - Isolate primary supply line to the Bixhoma water tank
    - Begin water addition to Bixhoma supply line to accelerate air purging
  5. Provide emergency portable water supply station for residents

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