Bridgeport leak causes water woes

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, January 11, 2014

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Bridgeport residents were again wondering Friday night when their faucets would flow after a water transmission line broke for the second time in 32 hours.

A major leak near the water treatment plant Thursday left the city without water for almost 18 hours. It was repaired and water service was restored early Friday morning.

Messy Work

MESSY WORK – Work crews from the city of Bridgeport try to move a water pump into position at the site of a major water leak Thursday. Moving the equipment into place was made more challenging by the soggy ground. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

But the repair failed and a second leak was reported around 4:30 p.m. Friday, leaving the city without water again.

Community Relations Manager Amber Fogelman said at 5:30 p.m. that it would be several hours before the repair was complete, and residents may get free bottled water at the Bridgeport Police Department.

Reports of residents without water first began coming in to city hall shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday. City crews spread out around the city to find the source of the leak.

The ruptured line was discovered in a field next to the city’s water treatment plant on Farm Road 920. The break was in a 14-inch transmission line that is used to move water from the water plant to the city’s two water towers. Fogelman said the cause of the first break is believed to be a slippage of the 90-degree elbow joint used to connect two pipes. As of press time Friday night, Fogelman did not know what had caused the second break.

The first break caused the water towers to empty, and the field around the water leak became a swampy, muddy mess. City crews began the task of draining the water so they could get to the pipe to make repairs. The task was made more difficult since some of the heavy equipment needed at the site would sink into the saturated earth.

Meanwhile, city residents and businesses were without water. Bridgeport ISD Superintendent Eddie Bland said Thursday morning that he was staying in contact with the city to get updates. When it was apparent that the repairs would not be made until late Thursday, he made the decision to dismiss school at 12:30 p.m.

Several restaurants that are normally busy during lunch time had “closed” signs in their windows.

City officials sent residents a phone message through its Blackboard Connect message system letting them know about the water leak, and employees at City Hall spent much of the morning answering hundreds of phone calls from concerned citizens. Updates were also posted on the city’s website.

Work on the ruptured line continued throughout the day and into the night. The city said the line was repaired around 1 a.m. Friday.

While the repairs might have been made, the water problems weren’t over. It would take several hours for the city’s towers to refill with water and for adequate pressure to return water to residents. The city asked customers to conserve as much water as possible to allow the city’s water towers to fill up. The system was still rebuilding pressure Friday afternoon, more than 12 hours after the repair.

Also, not all areas of town saw water service return at the same time. The city posted a message on its website at 6:45 a.m. Friday saying, “Water is slowly flowing through the lines. If you are on the east side of town, please be patient. It is coming, the lines are elevated a little more and so it is flowing a little slower.”

The east side of town includes Bridgeport High School.

Bland said he received a call at 3 a.m. from the city saying the line had been repaired, and the initial estimates for when water pressure would be restored to all of the city would be two to three hours. He said he decided to hold school since water would be returning, he hoped, by the time school was set to begin.

As it turned out, it took longer than initially expected, and adequate water pressure had not returned to the high school by the time classes started. Bland said the school set out water bottles and fresh water dispensers for students and staff.

“We take the safety of our students and staff seriously,” Bland said. “If we couldn’t provide a safe environment for our kids … then we wouldn’t (open school).”

Some parents who live on the east side of town posted messages on Facebook expressing concern that students were returning to class at normal time Friday even though water had not yet returned to their homes. Some students hadn’t had an opportunity to take a shower.

Bland said Friday that he understood parents’ concerns about sanitary issues, and any student who could not attend school Friday due to the water issues would be counted as excused.

During the hours that water service was restored, residents were under an order to boil water, as required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

The city released a statement Thursday saying, “To ensure destruction of all harmful bacteria and other microbes, water for drinking, cooking and making ice should be boiled and cooled prior to use. The water should be brought to a vigorous, rolling boil and then boiled for two minutes. In lieu of boiling, you may purchase bottled water or obtain water from some other suitable source.”

Once the second repair is made, residents will likely be under another boil order for a period of time. Water system officials will notify customers when the water is safe for consumption and boiling is no longer necessary.

For more information, call Bridgeport City Hall at 940-683-3400.

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