Conway Corporation is addressing recent customer concerns about the "muddy" taste and odor of drinking water many are experiencing in the city.
In a statement to the Log Cabin Democrat, the city’s utility company explained that the change in taste and odor of the water is because Conway’s water source, James H. Brewer Lake that is located in Conway County, is turning over.
"The lake turnover happens twice a year when the temperatures change, and this year the spring turnover occurred about a month earlier than normal," Jeff Matthews, public relations coordinator, said in the release. "Over the last 10 years, the turnover has happened as early as the first week of March and as late as the middle of May."
The earlier turnover is because of warmer temperatures, more rain and higher winds. The warmer temperatures cause the water from the bottom of the lake to move to the top and the heavy rains and high winds wash sediment and organic material such as twigs, leaves or grass into the water source.
When the organic material in the lake begins to decay, the process of treating drinking water may result in water with an increased taste or odor.
"The water is safe to drink," Matthews said. "We conduct multiple daily tests to ensure its safety. In addition to the daily tests, we gather 61 bacteriological samples that the Arkansas Department of Health tests each month. We’ve been treating the water with the maximum amount of activated carbon to offset the taste and odor and we expect both to return to normal soon."
But what about lead?
To prevent pipe corrosion that causes lead leaching into drinking water, Conway Corp assures customers in the city it follows a control program required by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Arkansas Department of Health. In a public letter to customers in its Winter 2016 newsletter, Conway Corp’s Chief Executive Officer Richie Arnold addressed concerns for residents following the crisis in Flint, Mich.
"Since switching their water supply in April 2014 from Lake Huron to the Flint River, unsafe levels of lead have been found in their drinking water," he wrote. "Lead was used in pipe joints in water distribution systems and household plumbing until Congress banned the use of lead in 1986."
Arnold explained the Flint River is highly corrosive; 19 times more so than Lake Huron, according to researchers from Virginia Tech. Secondly, Flint did not have an effective corrosive control program. Although Conway’s primary water source is Brewer Lake, its supplemental water allocation is through the Mid-Arkansas Water Alliance (MAWA) from Greer’s Ferry Lake.
Currently, no infrastructure exists to transmit water from Greer’s Ferry other than an emergency "tie" with Community Water System — the water system for communities in Faulkner County. Conway Corp feeds sodium hexametaphosphate at about 0.99 parts per million which coats the pipes and prevents lead from leaching into the water system, Arnold said. The company also maintains a pH of around 7.2, which is a neutral amount, and that helps as well.
"The ADH pulls an inorganic chemical analysis of our finished water on a regular basis, checking up to 40 different things, including lead," Arnold said. "Additionally, we sample for lead and copper every three years and send the results to AHD. We are now on a three-year monitoring cycle because our previous results were well below the maximum allowable levels."
"Conway Corp prides itself on providing safe and plentiful water for Conway," Matthews said in the media release. "Our engineers are continually working to provide the best quality water for the community."