Mayor addresses local water outages Boil water notice rescinded Feb. 27



Wills Point water customers were put into a frustrating position for the second time in as many weeks Feb. 23 with issues caused by a catastrophic failure at the city's Lake Tawakoni Pump Station causing low or no water pressure for local users and a boil water notice to be put in effect. The issues caused Wills Point ISD to dismiss classes at 10 a.m. Feb. 23, a week after cancelling classes outright Feb. 16 due to a previous catastrophic failure in the city's water supply. Mayor Mark Turner addressed both recent outages Feb. 26, issuing a lengthy explanation to residents regarding current issues facing the city's water supply and potential projects in the works to help alleviate or eliminate future issues.

This past Thursday (Feb. 22), our city water supply suffered another catastrophic event on the heels of the prior week where our main supply line from Lake Tawakoni was cut off due to a problem with our main pipe feeds.

You may recall, that when our feed from Lake Tawakoni was cut off, city crews along with MVA and city of Kaufman crews installed a temporary pump at the Wills Point Reservoir and piping was installed and connected to our water plant. The location that this emergency setup was connected to had not been utilized in decades since the feed for the plant was changed to Lake Tawakoni.

The in-line flow meter failed on Thursday and efforts to replace it began immediately. In order to perform the necessary replacement, the emergency pump had to be shut off. While supply is shut off, demand and usage within the city continues. Every hour the supply is shut off the storage in the water towers is depleted.

You might ask why we decided to replace an in-line water meter in the midst of running on temporary facilities. First, the state requires that we supply daily usage readings of water. Without the meter we would not be able to be in compliance. Second, knowing the exact flow rate is crucial regarding our water treatment.

As the replacement meter was located and replaced late in the day, the temporary pump was turned back on and treatment on the water began. At this point, the city believed that we would begin pumping water to our clear well for pumping to the city before the towers were negatively impacted.

However, tests on the water treatment were less than desired and steps were implemented to determine what the issue was. Failing to identify any specific trigger, Eagle Labs was called in for assistance and sent a crew to assist in identifying the problem. The tests performed take time to produce the results before alterations and further testing could be accomplished. These processes were required for hours into the night. About 4 a.m. the issue was determined to be the positioning of the water feed once the meter was replaced. The positioning wound up being critical in how the water was treated. An extension was placed in the pipe line and tests were once again started.

During this time, the water storage in the towers hit critical levels and notice went out that water pressure or total loss of water would occur. The city placed notices on our Facebook page and website. Additionally, we contacted Code Red so that everyone who subscribes would be notified. Code Red is being managed by VZ County and the person responsible for issuing the Code Red was unavailable and it didn't get sent. Word went out to the school and city personnel began contacting businesses. boil water notice was issued as we knew that once water was supplied again that it would be needed.

Water was restored Friday evening late.

Why does it take so long? The water is treated and placed in what is called a clear well. The clear well supplies water to the water towers. Water is pumped from the clear well utilizing high capacity pumps. The first objective was to replace the water in the clear well. The clear well holds 500,000 gallons of water and it takes time to get it to a capacity level where water can then begin to be pumped to the city. Once the clear well reached a level where pumping could begin, the high capacity pumps have to fill 28 miles of line in the ground before water begins to rise into the water towers. When the issue was resolved in the morning hours, it was a matter of time before enough water could be produced to restore water flow to homes and businesses.

In order to refill the water towers, it takes about three days because as water is being pumped it is also being used and the excess goes into the tower. As of today, the water towers are full. Our overhead capacity for the city is 450,000 gallons.

What about the initial problem at Lake Tawakoni? What is being done there? Due to the incessant rain last week, crews were delayed in reconstruction of the necessary connections. The city approved the purchase of two (VFD) Variable Frequency Devices to be added to each of the pumps at Lake Tawakoni and they are in the process of being installed. This will allow a ramp up of pressure instead of the instant pressure which kept blowing the connections in the pipe. Once work on the VFD's are completed and the connections secured, concrete will be poured and the pumps will be turned back on. Estimated time for this restoration is Wednesday of this week.

What is the long term solution so these problems don't happen? There is a two step process and one is more immediate than the other. Step 1: Complete the project at Lake Tawakoni as discussed above. Step 2: Once water is restored from Lake Tawakoni, work will be underway to install a pump at our city reservoir and a permanent connection utilized between it and the water plant.

A longer term project has been underway since March 2, 2017. On that day, the city filed project information forms with the state requesting assistance to make crucial updates at the city water plant. As that process continued, initial costs estimates were received and showed it would take $4,500,000 to complete. The city began researching grants and loan forgiveness programs offered by the state. As no grants were available, the emphasis was placed in loan forgiveness opportunities. Loan forgiveness works similar to a grant in that the state allocates funds for assistance to communities that are acquiring loans for things such as water treatment plants.

At the time the city began pursuing the loan forgiveness program, the first step that the Texas Water Development Board looks at is median household income. A city has to be equal to or less than 75% of the State median household income. The city did not meet the first step as our household income was not less than the State average at that time. The state has since raised the average to $40,025 and the city of Wills Point is $38,380 so this will be revisited.

At this time, the city is working on qualifying for a low interest loan. The effort started almost a year ago and continues. The paperwork alone for a project such as upgrades to a water treatment facility takes, on the average, 18 months to 2 years and that is before any work actually beings.

At this time, the boil notice is still in effect and notification will be published as soon as we get word that it can be lifted. I personally witnessed the efforts by Wills Point personnel, Eagle Labs, MVA, Barco Pumps and many others in the restoration of service. I appreciate the dedication of everyone involved and the numerous hours of work that each of them put in to insure we had water restored.