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Oklahoma DEQ says not to use McAlester water after fire truck was used as improvised pump

The Pittsburg County Courthouse in McAlester
Lisha Newman
/
Oklahoma Tourism
The Pittsburg County Courthouse in McAlester

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality hasissued an order not to use water from the McAlester Public Works Authority or several Pittsburgh County Rural Water Districts that buy their water from the city.

On Wednesday, an electrical problem shut down the pumps that feed McAlester’s water towers from its treatment plant. Later that evening, water was trickling through the resident’s pipes once again.

“We have successfully bypassed the pumps and water is currently flowing to the lines,” reads an update on thecity’s website.

What city officials used to pump that water, though, was a bit unorthodox.

“They decided to use their fire truck as a pump,” said Erin Hatfield with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

Hatfield said anything that comes in contact with potable water has to meetstandards from the National Sanitation Foundation. Fire trucks do not meet those standards.

On Thursday, the DEQ issued an order not to use water from the McAlester Public Works Authority or several Pittsburg County Rural Water Districts that buy their water from the city.

This is not a boil order. Boiling water kills bacteria but doesn’t help with other contaminants, and Hatfield said the DEQ doesn’t know what this water might contain. The agency recommends affected residents use bottled water for drinking, cooking, doing dishes, brushing teeth and washing hands.

“It’s likely going to be into next week,” Hatfield said. “The timeline is just when we know it’s safe to drink.”

For now, she said the National Guard is providing assistance.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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