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Pettus Municipal Utility Department has been making do with what they can when it comes to their aerators for the creek water, but thanks to some emergency money that’s been approved, they’ll be getting new equipment after many years. 

If the prospect of bloodworms in your creek water sounds unappealing, then there’s good news coming downstream: the town of Pettus is getting new aerators, following an emergency purchase approval at Monday’s Bee County Commissioner Court meeting.

“We’ve only had one aerator for the past six to seven years,” Jesse Hernandez, operations manager with the Pettus Municipal Utility Department, told the Bee-Picayune. “We had one repaired and break down on us and the other has been doglegging it.”

Now, with this approval of funds, Hernandez says they’ll be replacing all three aerators, at a cost of – including installation – around $55,000. It could have cost a lot more – some quotes were offering aerators at over $100,000, Hernandez said, and the situation was, as one of the commissioners remarked, reflecting a “dire” need.

“One of them was pulled and never reinstalled, I actually don’t even know where it’s at,” Hernandez said “The one we were Frankensteining basically just collapsed on us, we pulled that one out. So we’ve been kind of running it … manually, leaving it on for pretty much the past five years. Financially we were struggling … we just weren’t able to get what we needed. And so TCEQ hit us … they gave us a pretty hefty fine.”

Part of what has allowed Pettus to secure these long-needed monies has been the American Rescue Plan, which Hernandez credited for helping them finally get not only the aerators, but replacement generators as well.

“We’ve been in rough shape here for quite awhile, we’re happy to have run into this situation,” he said.

The money woes for the PMUD reflect the economic realities of the region.

“We’re a low-income community, so raising the rates and stuff was kind of not on the table for awhile,” Hernandez said. Recently they were at last able to justify a rate increase, and now it will be another six months before they determine its overall impact and if they can raise rates further.

An aerator is a device for environmental quality control.

“The aerators are designed to make the good bacteria eat the bad bacteria,” Hernandez said. “Normally what it’s supposed to do is everything that goes into the clarifier gets separated, the good water goes into the contact chamber and the good solids go into the aerator. The aerator’s job is to keep that bacteria alive.”

Among the bad bacteria and organisms are bloodworms, which qualify as an environmental hazard. The PMUD water flows into a nearby creek, which animals can drink from and be impacted from if the water quality is poor.

The new aerator is a welcome fix to a long-standing problem, but Hernandez says there’s still more to be done. They’ve had some issues with their return activated sludge pump, a valve that’s coming out of the concrete in the return activated sludge chamber, and that’s the next issue to get fixed. Hernandez says they’ll be getting quotes for that.

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