Hico Water System president explains failing grade

By Jackson Bain

A trip to the mailbox recently revealed unpleasant news for Hico residents. 

“I got the letter on the wall. I tell everybody when they come up, don’t drink the water,” said Johnny Carmichael, who lives in Hico community.

His concerns are not unfounded. Carmichael and other Hico Water System customers have been receiving quarterly notices regarding problems with the water for a few years. And in a recently released report card of community water systems by the Louisiana Department of Health, the Hico Water System that serves the far northern portion of Lincoln Parish received an F rating. No other water system in the parish received under a C.

Carmichael said the water used to be great.

“I’ve been drinking that water for, I don’t know, 40 years over here and my dad-in-law, mother-in-law did, and everyone did,” he said.

But now, all the quarterly notices have Carmichael concerned.

“The water’s the same. It’s never changed,” said Russell Colvin, president of the Hico Water System.

Colvin said it all has to do with new federal and state regulations that have been imposed on small water systems. The Hico Water System got an overall grade of 49 out of 100, based on seven criteria. Colvin explained that 30 points were deducted because of total trihalomethanes (TTHM) in the water. It is something they have been aware of and is why they have been sending out quarterly notices to customers. There are organics in the water and when the system adds chlorine to the water, it reacts to form THMs. So as the water system has had to add more chlorine, it has been creating more THMs. After talking to nearby water systems, Colvin added that in addition to Hico’s coverage area, water systems in Union and Claiborne parishes, and as you go up into Arkansas, are having these problems with THMs.

The Hico Water System president stressed they are financially solvent and are trying to find ways to combat the problems without raising rates on customers if they do not have to. The water system has been testing low cost options, such as flushing the system and changing how they are injecting the chlorine, the goal being to fix the problem by altering operating procedures rather than committing to large capital expenditures.

“What we don’t want to do is spend a lot of money if it’s not something we’re a hundred percent sure will work,” said Colvin.

In the meantime, the failing grade may have Hico Water System customers asking if the water is safe to drink.

“I’m a member of the system and I drink the water,” Colvin said. “I know that the notices do have to go out. But like I said, I drink the water.”