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Going back to the well
by Chip Latcham
Apr 11, 2014 | 79 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
At the risk of sounding like Johnny One Note, we thought we’d sound the familiar alarm—again.

On April 3, the city of Alice found itself without drinkable water.

The Alice Echo-News reported, “Due to line break in the distribution system caused by a private contractor, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has required (the) water system of the City of Alice to notify customers of the need to boil water before consumption.”

Residents also were encouraged to purchase bottled water, and we understand the H-E-B store there trucked in large containers for the public.

Sound familiar? Just four months ago, Beeville found itself in a similar predicament, much to the consternation of its citizens.

Many factors have been cited for the city’s water crisis and why the Swinney Switch plant failed.

Among those were: the lack of certified or trained personnel, staff turnover, an unlicensed operator, delaying plant needs, a lack of planning and even confusion caused by the presence of a TCEQ team.

We were fortunate in the past few months to have had the experience of interim City Manager Marvin Townsend (formerly of Corpus Christi), who voiced suggestions for developing an alternate water supply.

He recommended that the City Council enlist the services of at least two engineering firms—one to look into the quality of water available in aquifers around the county and another to consider the Morrill plant and make recommendations on updating and maintaining that operation.

We agree with the mayor and council that Townsend’s recommendations are sound, including ways to deal with the silting situation near the raw water intake structure on the Nueces River and working out another agreement with the City of Corpus Christi. (Both Beeville and Alice contract with that city to pipe water from Lake Corpus Christi.)

Since then, the council has hired a new city manager, Jack Hamlett, who has served in that capacity in larger cities, Seguin and Rosenberg, and also has valuable experience in dealing with water projects.

We strongly encourage the council and new city manager to continue with plans to develop a dependable backup water source for our growing city, including drilling groundwater wells and seeking grants for a possible desalination plant.

It should be the city’s highest priority. Go ask Alice.
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