Board member George P. “Trace” Morrill made the motion after hearing a report on the pump problems by engineer Jim Urban of Urban Engineering in Corpus Christi.
Urban reminded the board that his company had been hired to work up plans and specifications for filter rehabilitation during the summer and fall of 2011.
The engineer said that about 30 days ago the staff at the George P. Morrill, I Water Treatment Plant at Swinney Switch started having problems with the four pumps that had been installed at the intake structure at the headwaters of Lake Corpus Christi.
Since then, some pump failures had occurred and engineers conducted studies to determine why the pumps were developing problems.
The three pumps that had been in operation at that location before had performed flawlessly for decades, even at peak summer demands, before they were finally replaced.
The company that provided the pumps, Layne Christensen, has been arguing for some time about payments that the city has not made for previous work. But Urban said the work performed had been questioned and the city had been advised not to make the payments.
A contractor working on the replacement of the filtering media had agreed to install three new pumps, but those devices started having problems weeks after they were installed.
Urban said engineers studying the problems thought the intake structure could have been clogged with mussels, shells and silt. Divers were hired to clean out those structures, but they only found some silt.
The city received a bill for $23,000 for the studies conducted on the system, but Urban said his company was able to negotiate that down to $14,000.
Since that work was performed, the crew at the Morrill Treatment Plant has discovered that some pumps had developed vibration problems. Urban said that shortens the life of the pumps.
After that, one of the pumps sheared a shaft, and Urban asked the city staff to issue a conservation warning to Beeville residents.
Urban said the company that was replacing the filtering media at the time, Payton Construction of Wimberley, has been working to keep the system operating, even going so far as to install a temporary pump at the intake structure that is still operating there.
Urban said he now believes that the problem with the pumps is in the way they were installed in a “wet well,” where water is allowed in to be pumped to the treatment plant.
He had a list of suggestions that should be able to finally correct the problem.
Urban recommended lowering a window in the mechanism that allows water into the wet well or raising the pump in that location.
He also recommended welding a steel plate at the top of the structure where the pump is located.
Urban said engineers have been arguing with Layne representatives for three months over who should be responsible for paying for the changes.
“We’ve got to make sure we don’t run out of water,” Urban told members of the water board and the City Council.
But the first task is to get the pumping equipment working correctly.
Although the vibrating pump has not failed, it needs to be repaired before the vibration wears out parts on the device. He said Layne, the supplier of the pump, is still asking for a payment of $18,258. And the company has agreed to waive $23,000 of its original bill.
Urban said if repairmen can get the pumps to work correctly, it should cost the city $25,000 to make the necessary repairs.
The engineer told the City Council and water board that in an earlier meeting with city staff members and Mayor Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez, the mayor said to do whatever would be required to keep the water coming to Beeville.
“It should be as good as new,” Urban said of the system, once the pump problems are corrected.
At that point, Morrill made his motion to approve spending up to $25,000 on the project; BWSD board member Kay Hickey seconded the motion, and it passed without opposition.