PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Water has been hard to come by this week in Pine Bluff, but documents show that water has been flowing, in unknown areas, for years.
An analysis of state reports shows that Liberty Utilities, the company responsible for providing water to the city, has a documented history of unaccounted-for water.
According to a report sent to the Arkansas Public Service Commission in 2019 by Liberty Utilities, the amount of water lost and unaccounted for is “920 MG,” or 920 million gallons.
This was not a one-year issue for the utility company. PSC reports dating back to 2013 show levels of unaccounted for water ranging from a low of 276 million in 2018 to high of nearly 660 million in 2017 before the 2019 spike.
Arkansas Public Service Commission Reports for Liberty Utilities
Those numbers may seem massive, but the Arkansas Department of Health accounts for up to 15 percent of water from a provider to fall under the “unaccounted” designation. Looking at the figures based on percentages shows that the issue has become a much greater issue much more recently.
Earlier this week, patients at Jefferson Regional Medical Center were using medical waste bags instead of toilets, and on Tuesday, Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington told Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson that her city was “in a catastrophic situation.”
On January 4, 2021, the Arkansas Department of Health told Liberty Utilities it should implement a leak-detection program.
In a statement replying to those suggestions, officials with the utility company said it would undertake a number of steps, including using better documentation and instituting new training with employees and contractors.
According to Liberty Utilities website, the company provides services in more than a dozen states.