ATOKA, Okla. -- Southern Oklahoma cities are improving their most basic services. The City of Atoka is now building a new water plant to keep up with changing federal regulations.
When the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the acceptable levels of the chemical THM in the water, Department of Environmental Quality officials say about 90% of cities in Oklahoma immediately went out of compliance.
Most, like Atoka, have been operating as best they can until they could afford to make changes.
"It’s pretty much antique," water supervisor Jerry Hill says.
The Atoka Water Plant is running like it should. The potable water is clean, and safe to drink, but stays functional because people like Jerry Hill work hard to keep it going.
"We can't get any parts for anything anymore, and when we do have to make repairs, we have to constantly, you have to rig it up the best you can to get it to function."
About three years ago the EPA restricted the amount of trimetholane, or THM, levels for short.
Cities like Atoka have sent out letters with their water bill saying the water now has higher levels until city officials could plan for improvement.
"It was not really possible to renovate it and bring it up to the standards so that's why the council chose to go with a new water plant."
The city bought two acres near the existing plant for the new facility that will use newer technologies to stay up to standards.
Right now hill says it takes about four hours to see if changes to water had the right effect. They will be able to tell in about one hour in the future.
"Like now it's pretty clear during the winter, during the summer it gets agitated, so it's a nightmare."
Officials say the project will cost a towering $5.4 million, so they plan to take a loan and pay for it with grants and a sales tax increase, bringing relief to city workers keeping the water up to code.
"Hopefully, it will get rid of the gray in my hair again."
The City of Antlers is also building a new water plant. They broke ground last month. That facility is to use the same technology as the Atoka plant.
Both projects are scheduled to be complete sometime in 2009.