Quapaw residents will notice a significant difference in their water rates when the April bill arrives.

The rate increase became necessary due to requirements by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to city leaders, the current rate for water is $15 per 1,000 gallons of water used. The current wastewater rate is $4.13 per 1,000 gallons.

Effective April 1, the water rate will increase to $18 per 1,000 gallon and the wastewater rate will increase to $14 per 1,000 gallon.

The project to upgrade the city's sewer system has been over 10 years in the making.

Four years ago, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality demanded Quapaw improve the city's sewer system and threatened officials with penalties if the inadequate system was  not upgraded.

Under the current operation, the city's wastewater is discharged at a rate of 400 gallons per minute into an intermittent stream.

Environmental officials say the discharge needs to be released into a moving body of water.

The city received approval from the Federal Environment Protection Agency to discharge the wastewater into Spring River and was granted a national pollution discharge permit to begin the new sewer project. Unfortunately, the county commission and state Office of Tourism rejected the first proposal saying they would not grant an easement for the sewer lines empty into Spring River.

“Apparently the office of tourism didn't want the sewer lines going through the little park (Bicentennial Park) that sits on Spring River,” Reiss said. “And, the county commission didn't want to give the city an easement on their county road.”

The city presented a secondary plan to ODEQ to build an irrigation system southeast of Quapaw and was granted a grant extension for completion of the project.

The city was prepared to begin breaking ground on the project after the first of the year. Property was located, plans were drawn up and a core drill test was submitted to ODEQ for approval so the project could begin.

“ODEQ would not approve the irrigation because the core drill was not approved,” Reiss said. “It was practically impervious.”

Without approval from ODEQ for an irrigation system, the city had no choice but to refer to its original plans for routing the wastewater into Spring River.

In 2007, Quapaw officials appealed once more to the Ottawa County Commission. This time, commissioners approved the use of county easements to pipe treated sewer water into Spring River.

“We've gotten through three bid lettings,” said Reiss. “Now we are just waiting for Rural Development approval.”

Reiss said he expects to get the “go ahead” this week from Rural Development.