City holds emergency meeting to repair line as raw sewage pours into Chikaskia

by Charles Gerian

The Blackwell City Council held an emergency meeting at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, May 31, to discuss a recently discovered break in the City of Blackwell's sewer line causing raw sewage to be spilling into the Chikaskia River. The damage was caused by the recent storms and floods from that same river just weeks ago.

City Attorney Bryce Kennedy said that raw sewage dumping into the Chikaskia, certainly counts as an "unforeseen circumstance" putting the public's health and safety in danger, allowing the City Council to award an emergency bid to Luckinbill Incorporated out of Enid at the request of Jim Hoos, Water Department Supervisor.

According to Bryce Kennedy the riverbank had eroded severely and broke the line and that it was very much an emergency as defined in the agenda's footnote.

"We contacted the press, and gave as much notice as possible on our webpage and Facebook, " Kennedy said of the sudden meeting.

State Law allows a waive of notice and bidding under an emergency, and Mayor T.J. Greenfield noted that "bids can be waved if an emergency is declared, and raw sewage dumping into a navigable river is definitely an emergency."

City Manager Janet Smith stated that Luckinbill was Jim Hoos' choice and that they had already assembled the equipment and the means of stopping the sewage, stating "they've already headed up here" but needed the City Council's authority.

Councilman Webb asked if Luckinbill had done sewer work, to which Attorney Kennedy replied that they're a major company out of Enid specializing in a wide-range of skills and qualifications. City Manager Smith said she had worked well with them in the past.

"This has gotta be fixed," Kennedy said , "Luckinbill will work on a temporary fix first then step back and see what we need to do."

City Manager Smith then spoke, saying Luckinbill had been "all over the state" and that Jim Hoos was with them assessing the situation. Smith also provided pictures or the ruptured line.

Luckinbill sought an initial approval of about $25 thousand dollars but told Smith they didn't know exactly what the final amount could be.

"This has deteriorated a significant amount of land and with the amount of sewage pouring out, The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) being notified. This is major, so we need Council to move forward to stop this," said Smith.

Mayor Greenfield agreed, saying without a doubt the situation calls for emergency repair

Councilman Webb moved to approve with Councilman Tom Beliel giving a Second to the motion. It was approved unanimously.