Water well collapse leaves Carthage, Arkansas with no water; Town needs urgent help as crisis looms

The town of Carthage, Arkansas has been out of water since Tuesday, July 30, 2019, when the town's well collapsed.

Since then, there has been a crisis in the picturesque town of approximately 350.

According to Dallas County Sheriff Stan McGahee, the town has no convenience or grocery store. Therefore, he said citizens have to travel elsewhere for gas and other supplies. Of course, this makes the crisis worse.

We spoke with Water Superintendent, Lloyd Purifoy, who has had a rough two days following the town's water well collapse. He is working closely with engineer Trey Foster, who has been trying to contact state and local officials for help.

Purifoy said that the town routinely uses 20,000 to 25,000 gallons of water a day. Ideally, he said the town could use two, 10,000-gallon tanks.

Today, only 800 gallons of water are available to citizens.

It is supplied in two, 400-gallon water buffaloes. One is for drinking and the other for personal hygiene, to be used for flushing toilets, etc.

The main problem for the town is that it needs a working well immediately. However, even if government money arrives soon, the best-case scenario for the city is probably one month without water.

Sheriff McGahee said the county had to plan for the worst of 90 days without water, but he is hoping the crisis will end sooner.

The sheriff has stationed a deputy in Carthage to inform people of Mayor Shawn Randall's burn ban. McGahee said the mayor had the authority to issue the ban due to this emergency situation.

What Dallas County officials are most worried about is the possibility of a fire in Carthage. Since the city has an older population, Sheriff McGahee said relatives come through town who do not know about the lack of water.

This problem was on full display during this crisis when a Dallas County deputy came across a small fire in Carthage. A man who had come through town to collect limbs in his relative's yard had started burning them. Of course, he did not know about the water crisis or the burn ban. Thankfully, the small fire was able to be put out immediately, and the man was not cited due to the unique circumstances.

The lack of water has also caused county officials to plan what they would do in the event of a fire in the town. "We have never been more aware of what we would do if a fire happened in Carthage than we are right now," the sheriff said.

Because of issues like this, Dallas County Sheriff McGahee said he is planning to keep a deputy on duty in Carthage throughout the crisis.

Water Superintendent Purifoy is asking local citizens from outside Carthage to donate bottled water to the town. Also, Sheriff McGahee said donations of sterilized empty containers would also be helpful since many local citizens do not have them.

Due to the lack of containers, the sheriff has been collecting plastic jugs for water to be safely carried home. But the county could still use moe.

Superintendent Purifoy also mentioned that the town needs showers from FEMA or another source.

Sheriff McGahee said he was very concerned about the health of the town's older residents as the average age in Carthage is older than most Arkansas towns.

McGahee said he was afraid that older people would try to conserve water to the point that it would leave them dehydrated and ill. Therefore, he said that if someone in Carthage required water at their home and was unable to come to get it, delivery will be arranged to their door.

Nevertheless, until government help comes, local citizens are anxious and very worried.

Citizens have told us that Mayor Shawn Randall is doing everything he can, but they said local help is needed.

Dallas County Sheriff Stan McGahee said that Carthage could best be described as a town that stepped out of the pages of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine from years ago.

He said the town had nicely manicured lawns and well-maintained homes. He added that citizens there help each other out with their yards or errands when someone is ill or injured.

The sheriff added that there are more churches per capita in Carthage than any other town of the same size he has ever seen.

Carthage lost its school somewhat recently because of population shifts and the only real industry right now in the town is timber.

We have reporters reaching out to elected state and local officials. Stay tuned to SouthwestArkansasNews.com and ArkLaTexNews.com for full coverage of the water crisis in Carthage, Arkansas.

Sheriff McGahee said local help would be welcomed and that any donations could be dropped off in Carthage at the car wash in the center of town. To facilitate any contributions to the Dallas County Sheriff's Department, please call them directly at (870) 352-2002.

Editor's note: Please consider helping the people of Carthage, Arkansas, with water bottles delivered by your church, school, or business. The wheels of government can work slowly, but local friends and neighbors in the Ark-La-Tex can show this picturesque small Arkansas town that we care.