According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Sebastian County is currently experiencing a severe drought and according to city and state officials the lack of rain is to blame for the recent drop in water quality in Greenwood. The drought map shows Eastern Arkansas as the only area that is currently not under a drought warning, while the north central part of the state is under extreme drought conditions.
“We have received some complaints,” said Jeff Stone, Engineering Director for the Arkansas Department of Health “The taste and odor issues are affecting quite a few people. The operators of the plants are aware of it and they are doing what they can but until it rains and fills up the reservoir they are going to struggle.”
Stone stated that he has been in close contact with the James Fork Regional Water District, who provides the majority of Greenwood’s water, and that the samples that the Department of Health has been receiving from James Fork have been shown to be safe. “Bacteriologically the water is safe,” said Stone. “However when the reservoir got to be 14-15 foot low the water began to have a lot of taste and odor.
Stone explained that the treatment plants have been verified to ensure that they are working correctly. Treatment plants are tested in 10 different areas each month and more frequently when there are any issues.
Donnie Sandifer, General Manager at James Fork, stated that the reservoir is at its lowest point since it was built and is currently 16 foot below normal. “The lake has turned over,” said Sandifer. “We have switched our intake point from the top of the lake down to another point to take water from another level and hopefully that will clear things up.”
Sandifer stated that the reservoir turns over twice a year but that when water levels are normal it is not an issue.
Bodies of water turn over when the warm surface water begins to cool. As water cools, it becomes dense, causing it to sink. This dense water forces the water on the bottom to rise, turning over the layers.
Greenwood purchases 80 percent of their water from James Fork during the winter months according Greg Cross, Water Treatment Director for the city. Greenwood is under contract with James Fork to buy 15 million gallons each month. Cross stated that the city sells between 19-20 million gallons during the winter months and between 20-27 million gallons during the summer.