Central Arkansas Water to study possible consolidation with Wrightsville, Sweet Home wastewater systems

Gauges in high service pumps measure the suction and discharge levels of water to each of the distribution centers throughout Little Rock and North Little Rock in this August 2007 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo)

Central Arkansas Water's board of commissioners approved a staff request on Thursday to study the possible consolidation of two wastewater systems southeast of Little Rock.

The study will examine prospective consolidation with the wastewater system of the city of Wrightsville as well as the Sweet Home, Higgins and Red Oak Sewer Facilities Board.

At Thursday's meeting, Central Arkansas Water Chief Executive Officer Tad Bohannon said the utility received a request from the state's Division of Environmental Quality a couple of weeks ago asking if Central Arkansas Water could look into the matter.

The Sweet Home system is a "collection system" that sends all of its wastewater to Wrightsville for treatment, according to Bohannon.

Bohannon said Central Arkansas Water already provides water service within the area.

After meeting with officials from the two wastewater systems, Central Arkansas Water has entered into agreements with them to do the feasibility study with regard to "how those systems could be operated better," Bohannon said.

Central Arkansas Water officials do not expect to spend ratepayer money, although they plan to hire a third-party engineering firm, Bohannon said. The water utility is looking for grant funding from the Arkansas Natural Resources Division, he said.

"I don't know what the results will be," Bohannon said, adding that officials will return to the board of commissioners in December.

The Division of Environmental Quality had issued Wrightsville a corrective action order that "had some pretty onerous things in it," Bohannon said, "but we've already contacted them and they're going to hold that till we get done looking at it to see what needs to be done and get our input on how things ought to be fixed."

Central Arkansas Water has agreed to provide emergency assistance in the interim period, should it become necessary, while examining possible consolidation, according to Bohannon.

The agreements with the wastewater system say those officials will reimburse Central Arkansas Water for any work that is performed, Bohannon indicated.

Asked by Vice Chairman Jay Barth if the feasibility study is contingent on the grant coming through, Bohannon said yes.

The decision was approved in a voice vote of the board of commissioners.

Central Arkansas Water recently stepped in to repair the troubled water and wastewater system of Perla, a tiny community just outside Malvern.

In December, a circuit judge appointed Central Arkansas Water as receiver for the Perla system following a ratepayer lawsuit.

During Thursday's meeting, Bohannon told commissioners that the Hot Spring County Quorum Court has decided to award $150,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act funding to Central Arkansas Water for the utility to replace service lines in Perla.

CORRECTION: The Central Arkansas Water agency will study the possible consolidation of two wastewater systems. A headline accompanying a story Friday about the study incorrectly reported the name of the agency.