By Pete Banda
Although the debacle has ended, the stress and worries that were brought to light by the recent malfunction of water plant 1 in San Benito still persist. As with most major issues, there are more questions than answers floating around, but it seems city officials have been impacted enough to make several changes to their standard operating procedure.
By now the story is well known. Late Saturday evening, many San Benito residents began to experience a lack of water pressure, though it was nothing alarming at the time. However, the problem continued to grow and by noon the next day, the entire city was out of water. There was not much communication from the city until approximately 9 p.m. when city officials sent out a boil water notice to all San Benito residents. Unfortunately, as several residents put it, that was too late for most families that had already given their kids dinner and a bath before school the next day.
“We are state mandated to issue a boil water notice if the water pressure goes below a PSI of 20,” said San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez. “That did not happen till about 9 p.m. The minute that water pressure dipped below that limit, we took every action to inform the public. We called the schools, we issued a press release, and we updated the city’s social media accounts to advise the residents… There was just no need to issue a boil water notice before that.”
Still, the fallout from the fiasco has left many unsure about what would happen if an issue like this occurred again. After all, the official reason given for the water problems was that the cold weather caused a pipe in water plant 1 to break, which limited water pressure. Considering we could still be facing some cold weather this year, it’s understandable to be skeptical. That’s exactly why the Mayor and City manager have set up meeting with surrounding cities for support.
According to Sanchez, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa has planned meeting with the cities of Brownsville, Rio Hondo and Olmito as well as the suppliers of water for Military Highway residents. The city has also inquired about the possibility of using water plant 2 for emergency situations. Sanchez noted that they had been advised to stay away from plant 2 for legal reasons, but as they have a court date set for next month regarding the failed water plant, they have been advised they could start looking at plant 2 for emergency situations.
“We take this very seriously and have taken several actions to protect ourselves from something like this again,” said Sanchez. “Of course we understand that water is life and we are following just about every and anything we can to ensure we don’t have these problems anymore.”
It’s worth noting that lab results showed no contamination in the water supply even after the boil water notice was sent out.