HEAVENER, Okla. (KFSM) — From May through October 2019, while working with residents to help improve Heavener’s water quality issues, State Rep. Lundy Kiger received a large number of health-related complaints from people living in Heavener who had been exposed to dirty water through bathing or through consumption while cooking or drinking the water.
Kiger announced Wednesday (Feb. 12) the following process for anyone who has contacted his office or who has had or is still having health-related issues that required personal medical attention associated with Heavener’s water quality while Veolia North America was operating the city’s water treatment plant through the end of 2019.
From the large number of complaints received, Kiger discussed with officials from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) possible options available for people with concerns to confirm that their health issues actually came from the poor water quality or not.
“It was evident with so many calls of concerns that people needed confirmation that would help them in their ongoing treatment,” Kiger said. “To do this, I’ve called on officials at the OSDH to discuss options and a possible health evaluation for people who have sought treatment or are needing to seek treatment.”
Kiger invited officials from the OSDH to travel to Heavener in November 2019. The team, led by Director Gary Cox, met with a sample group of 10 Heavener residents who had contacted Kiger with ongoing treatment with serious concerns of health effects from the water.
“When I started receiving emails on specific health problems from individual people, I understood this was serious and that too many had been affected,” Kiger said. “When we met in person with the sample group and heard each one telling their story about their specific health problems and daily struggles related to the water, it was shocking to see the physical damage on some and to hear in their own words that illustrated just how bad some of these health problems are for these and many other people who have been exposed to dirty water for so many years.”
Some of the health issues described included bacterial infection, high blood cell counts, vomiting, diarrhea, hair falling out, headaches, dizziness, severe skin irritation on children and the elderly, skin rashes so bad that many had bleeding rashes and some people who described some very serious organ failures and surgeries earlier in the year. These were some but not all of the illnesses described to OSDH officials at the November meeting.
Kiger requested that the OSDH help develop a process for these people to be seen to help confirm if or if not their health issues are being caused by the dirty water.
The following is the process available to people affected or who feel they have been affected by poor water quality in Heavener until the end of December 2019, who have met with a medical professional and received an evaluation or treatment for illnesses, but the physician wasn’t aware of the water problem possibly being a cause: you can ask your physician to email their name, phone number and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kiger will respond back to physicians with contact information for the state’s epidemiologist. This will give doctors the opportunity to discuss with the epidemiologist whether there is a possibility an illness could be related to dirty water.
This could potentially lead to helping doctors assess an individual’s symptoms anew, possibly leading to a new diagnosis.
Kiger said this isn’t the easiest and most perfect process, but it is at least some help for those who feel their health issues were caused by dirty water.
Since the removal of Veolia from treating city water began Jan. 1, water quality improvements are being made daily.
For those who believe they became ill or had physical health damages due to poor water quality, however, Kiger said he wants each person to have the peace of mind knowing the truth.
“My thanks to Director Cox and the team at the OSDH for their help on this matter for the people of Heavener,” Kiger said.