Water in one Mid-South city goes brown without warning, could happen again

COTTON PLANT, Ark. — Suddenly and without warning, the water in one Mid-South town went brown.

For nearly a week, residents in Cotton Plant, Arkansas were forced to flush their pipes – with no guarantee it wouldn’t happen again.

The City of Cotton Plant told us they aren’t 100% sure what caused the water to turn brown. They have no way of preventing it from happening again.

Cotton Plant Mayor, Clara Harston-Brown’s joy quickly turning to horror when she realized Cotton Plant hadn’t struck oil, but had a water system, the Health Department says, was full of sediment.

“Where it comes from, I do not know. Is it going to come again? I do not know. Is it coming? I do not know,” the Mayor continued.

Harston Brown said the water went brown after a fire at the Water Plant.

The new Water Supervisor said Cotton Plant’s water issues go much deeper than that. Dating back several years.

“They weren’t oxidizing the water that was coming into the well, so over time, the water being pulled into that clear well for so many years, it was causing iron build up on the bottom,” he told us Tuesday.

Skinner said the updates made to the water plant just about 10 years ago weren’t maintained.

The system isn’t capable of running on automatic anymore.

At some point, he said, it appears the pumps sucked the well dry and pulled that iron at the bottom into the drinking water.

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So why not repair the system to run on automatic again?

“When you owe them $10,000 and nothing works on auto, you’re living on hopes and dreams,” he answered.

Harston-Brown said when she took office the City of Cotton Plant had $7,000 in the bank.

“When I came in here we didn’t have a police department, fire department. I had to lay them off because of no insurance. We didn’t have anything but the Board of Health and ADEQ on us. Board of Health with a $10,000 fine and ADEQ with a $10,000 fine that have been on the table for more than two years that haven’t been paid on.”

She said the City of Cotton Plant is up to it’s ears in debt, barely able to pay it off. Adding, there’s no way they can afford improvements to the water plant.

Living on a prayer that the water won’t go brown again.

“That’s how we are sustaining now, on prayer. Cause it definitely ain’t on money,” Harston Brown told us finally.

The City of Cotton Plant was under a boil order for more than a week. It has since been lifted.

Harston-Brown said no state agencies or otherwise have offered assistance to fix their water issues and they’ve run through the donated bottled water.

If you’d like to donate bottled water for their reserves, contact Cotton Plant City Hall.