A broken link between hoses at the Stamford Water Treatment Plant is the primary cause for the dirty water and low pressure throughout the city. City Manager Alan Plumlee reported that the filtration system at the plant began to lose power after a fifty-year-old connector between the system and a water pump became worn, broke apart and severed the link. This incident rendered the pump unable to perform a “backwash” process of pumping water back through the filtration system. This is done to clean the filter when it becomes too dirty to allow water to pass through.
“[The pump] pumps about 60,000 gallons of water…out of the 10,000 gallon clear well and it pumps it back up from the bottom and pushes all of that stuff up over the sides, it goes out and then we have a clean filter,” Plumlee said. Unable to perform this process, the pump was removed from the plant on Thursday, August 14 in order to be repaired over the weekend. The pump, normally taking weeks to months to fully repair, was returned to the city on the evening of Tuesday, August 18 where city workers continued to work on the pump to make it operational. A lower in efficiency manual backwash was then completed the next night, cleaning the filter and clearing up the water as it left the plant, yielding close to 75,000 gallons of water an hour. After 10 pm Wednesday evening enough water was able to be pumped and sent to the water tower for storage, yielding 6 ft of water by the next morning, falling well under the norm of 15 to 16 ft.
In response to the boil water notice issued Thursday, Plumlee said that the notice was issued after the water failed an independently run test from Abilene where three samples were taken from the water and were found to be unsafe to consume. Plumlee said that the notice will be rescinded once the next test returns as “no chloroform bacteria found,” or free from harmful contaminants, and meets all standards set by the state of Texas, citing that he hoped it will be as soon as Monday, August 25. Plumlee found samples difficult to obtain as the break occurred at the plant itself, thus requiring the use of a sample from before the break before the water initially passes through the filtration system. However, once the samples pass inspection, the rescind notices will be faxed to local news media, including Abilene, as well as posted on the front doors of City Hall as well as listed on the marquee. Plumlee hopes to determine a better way of releasing the information to reach the citizens more efficiently. Plumlee also stated that the water itself can also become dirty at an individual’s home due to personal use.
“Low use of water can cause that; old pipes in a house can cause that. Our goal here is that what we’re doing has been in existence out there since 1952. We are doing upgrades continually on the filter plant and then the only other thing is if we get to a point when we can replace water lines, [which] can help.”
When asked about the current work on lines within the city, Plumlee stated that the work has nothing to do with the break at the plant and that the work is to replace old sewer lines on seven blocks, upgrading from a six-inch wide line to a ten-inch wide one and will help the residents of the area who have been hampered by the smaller sewer lines as well as encourage development on the north side of Stamford. Plumlee also said that there will be no breaks on water bills as water that is not used by residents will not be charged to each resident, citing the minimum charge of $37.10 for water and estimating at 3,000 gallons for each billing cycle. However, water rates have not been raised in the previous five years and will not change for this year as well. Residents are advised to look at their bill as it is broken down into water, sewer and trash collection categories.
The water will continue to be tested by the city twice daily at five locations in order to maintain Texas standards. Plumlee also hopes to eventually replace the pump to prevent the incident from recurring, stating that “we still have work to do out there…this was a repair job they just did to get it to us.” He also stated that water pumps are specifically designed for the plant that it will be used at and must be built accordingly. However, a new pump will not be made in the foreseeable future until the current issue is resolved and the water budget is reimbursed, as the funds were used for the repair. Plumlee ended by saying that he hopes to see a change in water for Stamford in the future.
To report a water leak during regular business hours of 8 am to 5 pm, call the Water Department of the City of Stamford at 325-773-2723. After hours, weekends and holidays, call the City of Stamford Public Works Department at 325-773-3592 and leave a message, including your name and phone number.