Low water pressure in Corpus Christi’s public system — which prompted a boil-water notice Tuesday — was likely not caused by a major main break, but by broken pipes on individual properties of residences and businesses, and dramatically higher water use linked to dripping faucets, officials said Thursday morning.
While they haven’t completely ruled out a large water main break, they haven’t found evidence of one, according to city staff.
Roughly two days have been dedicated to that search, including dispatching a helicopter for a full view, as well as methodically isolating sections of the system to identify any potential problem spots.
Customers’ water consumption, meanwhile, about doubled in recent days, according to city water and utilities staff.
Many residents and businesses have dripped faucets to stave off the threat of pipes breaking in subfreezing temperatures. Some pipes compromised by the cold, meanwhile, have been leaking.
Boil water notices have been issues in hundreds of municipalities across Texas as the state continues to work through the impacts of a severe winter storm that descended Sunday.
Local officials said they are currently focusing efforts on increasing supply and bringing up water pressure throughout the city, in part by redirecting water in the distribution infrastructure.
Doing so helps also to identify any potential issues, according to staff.
The technique is not negatively impacting customers, said infrastructure manager Tom LaVake.
Lifting the boil water notice means increasing the pressure to at least 35 PSI consistently, citywide, followed by testing water samples, staff said.
Once samples are cultured – with tests designed to detect if any harmful bacteria is present – 18 hours must pass. If test results meet state standards, the notice can be lifted.
It would be another two days for that to occur, under a best-case scenario, said City Manager Peter Zanoni.
In conjunction with the city’s efforts, residents with leaks on their properties can help by shutting off water or employing a plumber to fix the problem, and also conserve as much water as possible, officials said.
While residents worked through day three of the boil-water notice, the city on Thursday began giving bottled water to seniors enrolled in the curbside meal pickup service and Meals on Wheels programs.
City leaders said Tuesday they would obtain bottled water and distribute it to seniors and other residents who do not have electricity or running water or who cannot leave their homes.
The city had a limited number of pallets from its fire department warehouse, which fire personnel delivered to seniors’ homes on Thursday, Zanoni said.
He said the city has requested more bottled water from state agencies and is working with private vendors. But supply is limited, and the rest of the state is after the same thing. Plus, snow and ice conditions on major roads have made it difficult for trucks to safely leave distribution centers.
The city has chosen sites to hand out water to residents and has traffic control plans in place.
“The issue is getting bottled water,” Zanoni said. “We’re having a tough time getting it, as is the rest of Texas.”
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