San Benito wants answers for water plant shutdown

by Fernando Del Valle, originally posted on January 16, 2017


SAN BENITO — Some questions surrounding last week’s water plant shutdown might be closer to being answered.

Today, city commissioners are expected to meet with consultants and engineers to discuss the Jan. 9 shutdown of the old water plant, City Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez said yesterday.

Rodriguez said San Antonio-based consultants Lou Portillo & Associates will help commissioners determine what went wrong when the water plant shut down for about 11 hours, leading the city to issue an advisory warning residents to boil water before drinking it.

In 2015, the consultants, with contracted-engineer Victor Gutierrez, conducted a study of the water plant’s “functionality and reliability” while recommending steps to renovate the facility built in 1927.

“We’re going to get an assessment of what happened and what needs to be done,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to discuss what’s going on.”

Rodriguez said he wants to make sure the plant doesn’t shut down again.

“It still needs work,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure everything is online and running right so we don’t get in the same situation.”

Meanwhile, the city continues its $3 million project to renovate the 90-year-old plant as part of a plan to increase its lifespan by 20 years.

City Manager Manuel De La Rosa has blamed low temperatures for problems that led the old water plant to shut down at about 7 p.m. Jan. 8.

Problems also led to the shutdown of water pumped into the system by the city of Harlingen, whose agreement provides emergency supplies of water.

About four hours later, the city issued its water boil advisory.

Trouble started at about 1 a.m. Jan. 7 when the water plant’s air line developed moisture that began freezing after temperatures dipped into the upper 30s, De La Rosa said.

As a result, a leak led to decreased water flow.

By 6 a.m. Jan. 9, the city had restored water pressure and flow.

That drop in pressure required a water boil notice to all users.

The city lifted its water boil advisory at about 2:55 p.m. Jan. 10.

It was the second time the city had turned to Harlingen for water.

Last September, the old water plant lost pressure after a waterline break, leading the city to utilize Harlingen water.

In 2014, the city turned to the old water plant as its primary water source after shutting down its $17.9 million water plant because it wasn’t efficiently working.

In turn, the city filed a lawsuit against companies behind the construction of the water plant built in 2009.

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