Water treatment

The City of Magnolia had planned to reopen next week its plant for the treatment of water from Lake Columbia. With the arrival of giant salvenia in the lake, that process may be delayed.

Last week’s discovery in Lake Columbia of the invasive water plant, giant salvinia, poses immediate problems for the City of Magnolia.

Mayor Parnell Vann said that during 2019, the City of Magnolia drew its water exclusively from three water wells in the Sparta Aquafer. The city serves its own customers and sells water to rural water associations.

The city had planned next week to start drawing water again from Lake Columbia through the city’s pipeline to its Sterling Lacy Water Treatment Plant on West Greene Street.

The treatment plant has recently gone through filter replacement and other improvements.

“We were ready to turn the treatment plant on next week. Right now, the giant salvenia is just in scattered spots in the lake. But if left unattended it will get in our inlets. If we don’t do something about it, it will come into our plant and become a bigger mess than it is,” Vann said.

Vann said the city has a $100,000 fund set aside for “any catastrophic failure at the lake. We also pay $50,000 a year to pull water from the lake. Last year we did not pull any water from the lake. Our involvement from Lake Columbia is that we buy water from Lake Columbia,” Vann said.

The city will respond with any help it’s able to give, Vann said.

Magnolia officials have long used Lake Columbia’s water, and its water quality, as a selling point with potential industries. A threat to that water has the potential to harm industrial recruitment, Vann said.

The Arkansas Department of Health won’t allow Lake Columbia to be used as a water source – at least temporarily – if herbicides are used to eradicate salvenia, Vann said.

He’s not enthusiastic about lowering the lake, either.

“But again, the county owns the lake and the RDA runs the lake,” Vann said.

The Rural Development Authority decided Wednesday to start an emergency, three-foot drawdown of the lake. The hope is that anticipated freezing weather this weekend will kill the salvenia, which thrives in warm water.

Vann said he’s been told that there is a type of weevil that has been effective in killing giant salvenia. But, it has only been tested in waters further south and apparently can’t survive further north.

There’s a herbicide that’s been used against salvenia in Caddo Lake in Northwest Louisiana. However, Caddo Lake isn’t used as a municipal water source, Vann said.

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