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Lexington residents hope for water system partnership with Oklahoma prison

Several rural residents of Lexington have been dealing with contaminated wells for over a decade. Some say a new proposal to build and share a well on a local prison's grounds is their last hope.
by Graham Lee Brewer Modified: December 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm •  Published: December 21, 2013

— Sixteen years ago, Carla Lebouf and her husband thought they were on their way to living an ideal country life when they purchased land east of Lexington and began building a home. That was before they realized the land lacked something essential: clean drinking water.

They spent thousands of dollars digging new wells, only to discover dry holes and bad water.

“Every time we would save up the money to do a well, and I used to literally sit out on the front porch and cry, because we might as well have just burned that money that we worked so hard to save up for,” said Lebouf, 43.

After eleven years of hoping for a new rural water system, they finally gave up and moved away. Now, dozens of her former neighbors on private wells are hoping that the state prison here could provide the long sought source of clean water.

The prison sits above an area of the water aquifer that is thought to be deeper and cleaner than nearby areas south of State Highway 39, where contaminants include salt and sulfur.

Tuesday, members of the Cleveland County Rural Water District No. 1 met with administration at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center just north of the highway in hopes the prison would build a new well system and share the water with Lexington residents.

Daryl Covey, chairman of the Cleveland County Water District, said a well on the prison's grounds would tap into the Garber Wellington Aquifer and the water would be shared with nearby homes.

The system would cost just shy of $5 million to build, a little over half of which would be covered by a U.S. Agriculture Department loan. The rest would come from grants, and a small portion would come from the residents themselves. Many of those living in the area have already put down a $2,500 deposit to secure a tap on the new water system.

The system would provide water not only to the homes immediately south of the highway, but to the prison and the town of Lexington, as well.

Lexington is expanding, and the town's two wells are shallow and water can be scarce during droughts, prompting the town to buy water from nearby Purcell, City Manager Charles McCown said.

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by Graham Lee Brewer
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Graham Lee Brewer began his career as a journalist covering Oklahoma's vibrant music scene in 2006. After working as a public radio reporter for KGOU and then Oklahoma Watch, where he covered areas such as immigration and drug addiction, he went...
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