Water returns to Arkansas town that had no service for more than 2 weeks

 Water is flowing again in an Arkansas city that was without service for more than two weeks after subzero temperatures swept the state, but officials say the effort is to avoid another outage in the aging local system. Much work remains to be done.

The Arkansas Department of Health lifted the boil order for Helena-West Helena on Friday, a day after restoring service to the city located along the Mississippi River about 52 miles southwest of Memphis, Tennessee.

"At this time, we have restored water to all customers," said Chris Harris, deputy director of the Arkansas Rural Water Association, which was working on the response to the outage.

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The outage affected 1,400 people and was the second for the city last year, which lost water last summer. The latest cuts forced residents to line up for bottled water, filling jugs or showering on trucks brought in by the state.

The outage affected one of two water systems for Helena-West Helena, which were two separate cities until 2006. One of the wells serving the system failed during the recent winter season due to pressure from leaking and leaky pipes.

Crews were able to fix leaks in the system, but the fouled well must be replaced and other improvements must be made to avoid returning to the same situation later.

Former state legislator John Edwards said, "We are still in what I consider to be an emergency situation and in my opinion and the opinion of others we will remain in an emergency situation ... until the new well is built and in service. Doesn't come." and the executive director of an industrial park, whom the mayor selected to help respond to the crisis.

HELENA-West Helena Mayor Christopher Franklin announced Monday that the city has hired a new superintendent to run the city's water system.

Edwards said local officials are working to raise money to fund the millions of dollars in repairs needed to build a new well, rehabilitate an existing well and make other renovations to the system in the coming months.

The city has set aside $1 million from the sale of a hospital building to improve the water system, and the state has issued two $100,000 emergency loans to the city since last year's crisis.

Edwards said he and the mayor will ask the City Council to approve a request for $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Program for a new well and $150,000 to help replace broken water lines.

Edwards said city leaders also plan to hold a roundtable later this month to learn more about other potential sources of funding for repairs.

"We need to start looking at alternatives that will truly provide long-term solutions to the problems we face," he said.

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