Pump failure blamed for boil water alert

By KEN ESTEN COOKE Reporter Publisher

Tempers rose as water pressure fell last week, causing a 24-hour boil water alert for the entire town.

Service was back to normal by 2 p.m. Thursday, once a water sample from the city got the okay from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. A pump failure was the cause.

"We lost electricity to the Texas Street pump, which resulted in low water flows," City Manager Kelvin Knauf said. "Just as a precaution, we issued a boil water notice."

Tests are submitted to the TCEQ and generally take 24 hours to get results back, Knauf said.

The boil alert happened around 1 p.m. last Wednesday, just as The Reporter returned from the press. (Bulletins were posted on the newspaper's website.)

Local schools gave out bottled water to children and grocery stores had a run on bottled water. Resturants purchased bottled sodas and ice, shelving soda fountains and ice makers during the alert.

But complaints were fielded about overall water quality.

"I lived in Houston for years and my grandkids have never had to boil water," Lynda Tanner, a new Rockdale resident, said.

After drainage work was done near her home, she said her pipes were flooded with "red water," which the town has battled for decades. High iron content is blamed for the buildup of sediment in the pipes and which occasionally shows up as a reddish tinted tap water.

"My last water bill was over $100 and we can't even get decent water," Tanner said. "It's like an every-month thing we have to deal with."

Knauf said the city's aging water infrastructure, which is heavily reliant on cast-iron pipes from the 1930s, does cause problems.

"We have had water leaks for a while now, and we are working as fast as we can to fix them," Knauf said. "Some of it is drought-related, then we got a lot of rain, so there is soil shifting which causes lines to crack or break."

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2009-10-22 digital edition

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