- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

HUGO, Okla. (AP) - A company’s failure to properly disinfect Hugo’s water supply left an estimated 7,000 residents in the Hugo area without safe drinking water for months.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality discovered Severn Trent Services didn’t use enough chlorine for more than 300 days over the course of two years. Agency inspectors found in February that chlorine equipment was broken and unsafe for workers, The Journal Record (https://bit.ly/1M4XPU9 ) reported.

Severn Trent could face heavy fines for a series of violations that have occurred since January 2013. The small, southeastern Oklahoma town outsourced control of its drinking water, raw water pump stations and wastewater to the company in 2007.

Leaders in Hugo voted late last month to end the town’s contract with Severn Trent two years early, and the company has about 45 days to respond. Severn Trent’s regional manager, John Bannen, declined to comment on the termination letter.

In February, employees from the Environmental Quality agency conducted a weeklong inspection and found dozens of violations.

Plant workers couldn’t properly monitor the chlorine room, because there wasn’t a door with a window in that equipment room. The fan in the chlorine room also was broken, and two of the three oxygen tanks were empty. A water plant also should have at least three filters to remove sediment and keep the water from becoming cloudy, but only one is in operation at the Hugo plant.

Despite the department’s review, the agency found in April that a plant supervisor hadn’t addressed much of the problems.

The City Council has approved $150,000 so Hugo Interim City Manager David Rawls could buy equipment needed to address the problems. He said he has fixed most of the equipment issues in the past 10 weeks, and spent around $100,000.

Rawls was previously Hugo’s city manager until 2011, and he said the water plant didn’t have those problems when he was in control. He was hired after the last city manager was fired.


Information from: The Journal Record, https://www.journalrecord.com

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