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Town of Copan coping with more water quality issues

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Posted at 5:47 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 18:47:34-04

COPAN, Okla. — The town of Copan in Washington County is once again under a boil water notice.

This time local officials said it's because of muddy water plaguing its ageing filtration system.

In the final week of school, Lester Koger finds himself taking an impromptu donation to his child's classroom.

The delivery is not for any end-of-year event but to simply get the kids a drink while the city water is deemed unsafe to drink.

2 News was there in 2023 as the town struggled with water quality issues:

Copan Under Water Restrictions

Koger said this isn't the first time this year, either.

"Some (water outages or boil notices) last a couple days," Koger told 2 News. "Some of them last two or three days. And some of them, we gotta boil water for maybe a week or so...Maybe three this year so far."

The Copan Fire Department relayed the announcement from first-term Mayor Pete Elkins over the weekend for a "mandatory" boil water notice.

The Oklahoma State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) clarified to 2 News it's technically a precautionary notice, as only the agency itself can issue a mandatory one.

Copan Public Schools Superintendent Chris Smith said it's happened repeatedly over the school year, forcing school administrators to adapt.

"We will go purchase quite a bit from Walmart and several other stores (when the boil notice occurs)," Smith said. "We've had some (parents) that have donated quite a bit water. I know the city got some donated and they brought it up to us as well earlier in the year. But we depend a lot on the bottled water during these time periods."

Copan has had repeated water woes in recent years, namely because of drought conditions at Copan Lake.

This time it's a turbidity issue, according to DEQ - meaning the water is not clear enough for regulation use.
Mayor Elkins said last year's drought, combined with recent heavy rains over the last two weeks, created a thick layer of mud at the lake where the water treatment plant's intake inlet is located.

He said so much so that Copan's 50-year-old plant and one operator inside were overwhelmed and couldn't possibly filter all of it for safe drinking.

"They went out there again (on May 12) with the hose and put (the inlet) back on, and we started getting water again," the mayor said. "In the meantime, all the mud has just jammed our water plant."

While Elkins expects DEQ inspectors to come by at some point, he does not expect the boil advisory to last through the week.

Grant money has already been approved for much newer water treatment equipment in the coming years, he said.

"We are really stressed out when we get into situations like this," the mayor said. "It's all hands on deck."

Elkins said he's also awaiting word from Washington County Emergency Management about acquiring clean water for residents to come pick up for free.

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