Our Water: what happened during the severe winter weather and what is next

Water

Aging infrastructure in San Angelo falters further in extreme cold

SAN ANGELO, Texas – February 2021 has been a whirlwind of major issues for San Angelo water and power. Last week’s winter weather crisis impacted more than just power, and it served as the second major water issue San Angelo has faced just this month. A breakdown in water distribution caused the city’s water supply to be inaccessible and then briefly unusable, triggering a boil water notice and followed by multiple rounds of testing.

“It wasn’t so much a power issue,” explained Allison Strube, Water Utility Director for the city of San Angelo. “Several other cities across the state had power issues and were unable to produce water at their treatment plants. That however, was not our issue. Our issue was the freezing temps and it locking up pumps, keep them from basically repressurizing that water. Once we were able to fill tanks and repressurize the entire system, we were able to flush lines, and then also pull samples city wide to test for bacteriological samples […] and all of those came back clean and that is why we were able to resend the boil water notice.”

COSA Infographic, 2021

But, these issues are still of concern as they were the result of the severe winter weather. City crews worked tirelessly to get communities back online, working with power regulators and digging up water lines to assess and repair the damage. This is not the first time that we’ve discussed San Angelo’s infrastructure, much of which is outdated, and slated for replacement or repair. Now however, the issue of “weatherization,” or weather proofing must be rolled into the ongoing Capital Improvement Projects. “The discussion with our pump stations and those type of improvements needed at those will be a part of the Capital Improvement Plan which is also where we discuss pipeline replacements and sewer line replacements,” Strube said.

Prior reports on San Angelo City infrastructure challenges and projects,
© NEXSTAR 2021

The city has many projects in various stages of design or completion, including College Hills which is their next big target. Chadbourne is still in the early phase, but water and sewer work are done. Bell Street is complete from utilities up through the street surface. Other areas are moving forward in their design phase, and there is also discussion of a new water main through downtown at some point in the relatively near future.

ADDITIONALLY: From the standpoint of the recent water contamination which immediately preceded the winter weather, city investigators are still searching for a source. The chemicals found are the starting point for this search, acting as an industrial fingerprint for the entity responsible, but as of yet it is not clear if there is one or several guilty parties. At present, back flow prevention is a priority for the industrial sites north of the city. According to officials, legal charges may be pursued following further investigation. We will bring you updates on this story as they become available.

A BRIEF ASIDE: For those with lingering questions about how the high pressure plain was safe from contamination when it was stated that pressure to the high plain could not be restored until the low plain was refilled and repressurized, we have a basic explanation. According to city officials, water flows out of the water treatment plant and in two main directions, north and south. The high plain of pressure is essentially fed by the water flowing south. The contamination occurred in the north section of the city and system. That water does not circulate around or back through the system, and thus does not reach the high plain to the south.

Animatic explaining city water circulation, © NEXSTAR 2021

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Water Conservation Status

Standard Conservation

San Angelo is in standard conservation, which restricts outside watering to twice every seven days at no more than 1 inch per week, no watering between noon and 6 pm. Runoff of more than 150 feet down any street, gutter, alley or ditch is prohibited.

Report watering violations by clicking on https://www.cosatx.us/departments-services/water-conservation/report-a-water-violation or calling 325-657-4409. Do your part; be water smart!