Lawrence County residents get first look at WMEL reverse osmosis plant


(WHNT) — Lawrence County residents got their first look at what’s being called a “quality of life changing” plant on Thursday.

Operators at the WMEL Reverse Osmosis Plant opened the facility to the public to tour for the first time on Thursday.

News 19 spoke with those touring the area about what the change in water quality would mean for their pipes – and their wallets.

“Oh, it’s a great day for Lawrence County and I am so proud to see this,” said Lawrence County resident Brenda Hampton. “We waited a long time and it’s been a really tough, hard fight.”

Hampton, a longtime Lawrence County resident and community activist, said it feels amazing to see West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority’s reverse osmosis in action.

“For five years, I’ve been fighting. Since 2015,” Hampton told News 19. “And to see it becomes now I was in tears when I saw it a couple of months ago.”

Reverend Lee Langham, a North Courtland City Councilmember, said after seeing the plant for himself, he feels reassured of the water’s high quality.

“You know before we had to PFOAs and  PFOS in there now we’re looking at this system here and how it’s cleaning the water and how explained that it’s cleaning,” said Rev. Langham. “Taking that out of the water. Now we shouldn’t be afraid to use it to cook to drink.”

Outsourcing drinking water is something many people in North Courtland have done for years, out of fear of PFAS chemicals that had been detected in the drinking water in 2016.

“Well, with having clean and healthy water… It’s going to be a great deal for the community,” Hampton stated. “Because we have a lot of sick people there. They were prone due to the contamination of the water, and after COVID came we really were struck really hard there.”

Langham said he hopes the new plant will keep the money in residents’ pockets.

“It’s running kind of expensive, you don’t win you have to continue to buy bottled water over and over and over, over the months over the last number of years that we’ve had to do that,” Langham said. “And our citizenry, a lot of them I guess can’t afford to keep doing that.”

Langham said as a city councilman, and as a lifelong resident, he plans to continue to hold the water authority accountable.

“The main way is we have to stay in contact[and] communication with them [to] find out what’s going on. And if it’s something that we see that is happening, then we need to bring it to their attention,” Langham told News 19. “So maybe they could get at it and work, you know, to correct the problem.”

WMEL General Manager Jeanice Slater assured the public Thursday that the water from the plant was 100% safe to drink.

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