Without water, grumpy residents showed up for work Tuesday morning without having had their morning shaves or showers.
Calling City Hall was little help. The phones were busy at the front desk. It was practically impossible to get through to the office of interim City Manager Marvin Townsend or Water Superintendent Cesario Vela.
However, by 8:50 a.m. City Hall was sending out automated “boil water” notices to city residents on Blackboard Connect.
It was the second time in a month that city residents were instructed to boil their water before using it to drink, to cook or to use for dish washing.
City residents had been told only 17 days earlier that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had approved the city’s water for drinking. For more than a week before that, the city had been under a TCEQ-ordered water boiling notice.
County Judge David Silva said Tuesday morning that no one notified anyone at the Bee County Courthouse of a shortage of water.
Because there was no water in the restrooms at the courthouse, the county had to have portable restrooms brought to the courthouse grounds. It was too late to cancel the court session.
Mayor David Carabajal arrived at City Hall just before 10 a.m. Tuesday to ask the same questions everyone else had. Like the others, he said he had not been informed of a water shortage in the city.
After learning that Townsend had gone to Swinney Switch to speak to the crew at the George P. Morrill, I Water Treatment Plant, Carabajal left City Hall only to be stopped by Bee County Emergency Management Coordinator Robert Bridge.
Bridge also was at City Hall to see what find out what was causing the problem.
As the two men talked, Councilman George P. “Trace” Morrill walked up to join the conversation.
Each man had heard rumors of what was causing the problem, but they had no idea what the real reason was for the outage.
“This is not good,” said Beeville Water Supply District Board President Jim Crumrine when he was told Monday afternoon that Townsend still could not be reached.
Crumrine had said earlier Tuesday that he had not been contacted by anyone from City Hall concerning the water problem. He said that morning when he got up to go to work there was only a trickle of water in the downstairs faucets at his home, and no water at all on the second floor.
By noon Tuesday, Crumrine and many other city residents were reporting that they no longer had even a trickle of water when they turned on their faucets.
“I have been contacted by all my fellow board members, and none of them know anything,” Crumrine said.
On Tuesday morning, neighbors met in their yards and in the streets as they checked their water meters and looked for signs of water leaks. Many residents thought, at first, that their water had been turned off during the night.
Rumors spread regarding the cause of the problem. The most plausible theory was that a major water leak had caused the levels of water in the city’s storage tanks to drop to seriously low levels.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, Vela was confirming that a water main break had contributed to the problem, but that is was not the only cause.
Vela explained that the loss of water in storage tanks was the result of several problems, including water leaks and problems getting treated water from the plant at Swinney Switch to Beeville.
Vela and Townsend were unable to predict when tank levels would be restored to normal. But they believed the problem would gradually be alleviated, perhaps as early as the end of the day Tuesday.
Townsend and Vela urged city residents to be careful about using large quantities of water until the storage tanks are filled again.
Vela seemed confident that the situation would soon be back to normal.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.