June 19, 2024

AR Gov. urges approval of $100K loan to aid town during water crisis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders encouraged the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to expedite an emergency $100,000 loan for the city of Helena-West Helena, Ark., after the recent water crisis which has left the town without water for over a week.

The loan is intended to help the town refurbish two wells and replace valves in the city’s water system to ensure that residents of Helena-West Helena recover from the water crisis and are more secure in the future.

This is the second loan to the city that Sanders has supported. In June of 2023, the city received a $100,000 loan from the ANRC to fix water system leaks. Residents were left without drinkable water and blamed the crisis on what they called an “antiquated” system in dire need of repair.

“My administration is prioritizing fixes to Helena-West Helena’s water system to get residents the resources they need,” said Sanders. “I’ve been in constant contact with Helena-West Helena’s Mayor and deployed the Arkansas National Guard and other emergency responders to provide water and address the issue. Going forward, this loan is part of my administration’s larger efforts to help the city refurbish its water system and prevent future system failures.”

The National Guard was sent to Helena-West Helena after Phillips County made a verbal disaster declaration to the state on January 18, during the winter storm.

The National Guard provided 2,000 gallons of potable water, drinking water certified, and 1,000 gallons of non-potable water for flushing toilets.

“Well, I don’t have any water right now. My water’s not working,” said West Helena resident Mary Jenkins in a previous interview. “I think they need to try and work on getting a new tank. Period. We have been talking about it long enough. Do something about it.”

Members of the Arkansas National Guard are now on duty seven days a week, providing water for West Helena residents.

Students in Helena-West Helena went back to school after the winter storm on January 23, but most of their homes are still without water.

Helena-West Helena School District Superintendent Keith McGee said in a previous interview that he plans to have portable showers and laundry services set up at Central High School by the end of this week.

McGee released an update Friday stating that residents impacted by the water crisis can start signing up to use these areas.

The water distribution site at the Phillips County Justice Complex will also be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, to meet needs until the water issues are resolved.

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