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Water control could be lifted Thursday

Published April 27, 2011 | By Chris Paschenko

GALVESTON — Water use restrictions in Galveston and most of the West County communities could be lifted as soon as Thursday if repairs to a water line are timely and if tests for bacteria are negative, officials said.

Officials said they believe poor workmanship led the leaking, 42-inch water main to rupture Saturday, spilling about 5,000 gallons per minute and turning the field at the Texas City Wye into a pond.

Meanwhile, Galveston’s freshwater reserves remained at a steady 50 percent capacity Wednesday afternoon, as city officials relied on other agencies and emergency wells to supplement islanders’ thirst.

The rupture also forced Hitchcock and water districts that serve Tiki Island and Santa Fe to order emergency water conservation measures.

Galveston issued a drought emergency Saturday, prohibiting residents from watering yards, washing cars or filling swimming pools. The fine for violating the restriction is $2,000 per day, city spokeswoman Alicia Cahill said.

Cahill urged residents to continue to heed the restrictions, so that 8,000 gallons per minute could continue to supply the island’s basic water needs via three emergency wells in Santa Fe and the state Highway 6 pipeline from Houston.

Hanson Pipe began repairing the broken pipeline Wednesday afternoon and the company could use a clamp to cover the fissure, said David Sauer, interim general manager for the Gulf Coast Water Authority, which supplies water to Galveston County.

An electrical surge, possibly from salt buildup on power line equipment, kept the city from drawing water from three wells until 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The city was working to make five of its six emergency wells operational, Cahill said. A sixth well was capped from a previous waterline break, Cahill said.

Eric Wilson, Galveston’s managing director of municipal infrastructure, went to the rupture Tuesday and viewed photographs of the hole in the pipe.

Wilson said he believes the rupture was the result of shoddy workmanship, Cahill said. Cahill didn’t immediately know the name of the company that installed the pipe in 2002, but it went bankrupt the following year or year after, she said.

“It looks like there were two pipes joined,” Wilson said. “The type of connection is referred to in the industry as a diaper. It wasn’t properly installed and it blew out on the side of it.”

Sauer also said there was evidence of poor workmanship in repairs of smaller service lines.

The water authority was expected to receive a full joint pipe Tuesday night and planned to order more repair parts as soon as the job is completed, Sauer said.

“We’re optimistic repairs will be completed by noon (today),” Sauer said. “There will be a time where we disinfect the line and take samples, but I think the city’s estimate is pretty close.”

A negative test for indicator bacteria, such as E. coli, could mean the end to mandatory water restrictions Thursday morning.

If bacteria are found, then testing would resume in 24-hour intervals, delaying the lifting of water restrictions.

Even when mandatory water restrictions are lifted, the city likely would leave in place voluntary water restrictions because of drought conditions, Cahill said.

Source: The Daily News
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