Sewer plant in danger of shutting down

City Councilman Brian Watson expresses concern during a council meeting Monday night when it was said that the damage at the wastewater plant was discovered Oct. 14. Repairs, deemed an emergency, have yet to be made.

BEEVILLE – City Council members expressed concern Monday night over a report that a manhole structure had collapsed at the Moore Street Wastewater Treatment Plant.

City Manager Joe B. Montez explained that the structure needed to be repaired immediately because if further damage occurs it could shut down the flow of wastewater into the plant.

Eric Villarreal of LNV Engineering explained that he had been contacted soon after the damage was discovered and he began looking for a contractor to repair the damage.

The engineer told the council that he was able to contact Mercer Construction, an Edna-based engineering and construction company that has performed work for the city often.

David Gregory, a supervisors for Mercer, was at the meeting and he described the problem for the council.

Also, two representatives of Inframark, the company that manages the city’s wastewater and water treatment facilities, were at the meeting to answer any questions.

Oswaldo Garza and Jorge Rojas both spoke briefly to the council.

Rojas said he went to work one Monday recently and when he was told he went to check on the damage. He said what he found was a hole in the ground where the manhole structure had been.

When asked how long ago the structure had collapsed, Garza said probably six or seven weeks ago.

Immediately several of the four council members at the table expressed concern with the fact that a breakdown of that magnitude could go unnoticed for that period of time.

Mitch Smith, a utility supervisor for the city, said he had noticed the problem on Oct. 14.

Smith warned that the current situation was allowing a considerable amount of dirt to get into the wastewater treatment equipment and that could cause additional problems if it is not corrected.

Councilman Ford Patton asked why it took so long before the city staff was notified of the situation. He agreed with City Manager Joe B. Montez who had called the situation an emergency.

“I don’t like doing this,” Councilman Brian Watson said as he expressed concern over having to deal with a problem as an emergency.

Watson said emergencies end up costing the city more money.

Mayor Frank Dominguez agreed, saying the city’s department heads need to be reminded of the costs of dealing with emergency situations that could be corrected earlier, before they become emergencies.

“This can’t be tolerated any more,” Dominguez said.

Council members were told that Mercer had quoted a $121,943 price to repair the problem. In addition, the city will have to pay LNV $19,500 for engineering work necessary for the repairs.

That would bring the total cost of making the repairs to $141,442.

Patton asked Montez where he would be able to find the money to pay for the work, and Montez explained that the city could use funds on hand to pay the expense.

Montez said the city then would be able to recover that expense from a $7 million bond issue recently approved to upgrade the facilities at the wastewater treatment plant.

Gregory told the council it would take six or seven days to complete the work at the plant.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5220, or at