BEEVILLE — City residents finally were notified Thursday night that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had allowed the water boiling notice to be lifted.
The notice came more than a week after the TCEQ ordered the city to issue the notices to all of its municipal water customers.
But that did not occur before Interim City Manager Marvin Townsend expressed his concern with the city’s water treatment problems when he spoke to the City Council Tuesday evening.
Townsend, who had been on the job for one week and a day, said he had eaten dinner at Chili’s Grill and Bar the previous evening.
He said customers were being served their meals on paper plates and given plastic dinnerware because the staff apparently did not want to serve diners on dinnerware that had been washed with contaminated water.
Townsend said in no city should residents have to receive “boil water” notices.
The problems with the city’s water started late last month when the TCEQ found high levels of trihalomethanes in the water being pumped to the city.
Residents were informed that drinking water containing high levels of the contaminate over a period of many years could cause liver, kidney and central nervous system problems, and also could increase the risk of cancer.
On Nov. 6, residents were notified that they should heat any water they plan to consume to a “vigorous rolling boil” for two minutes before using it.
That problem, according to a TCEQ notice, was caused when the state agency found high turbidity in the water.
The turbidity, according to a notice sent to city residents, could provide a medium for microbial growth.
The turbidity also could indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms and bacteria, which could result in cramps, diarrhea and headaches.
The symptoms, according to the notice, could be particularly severe for anyone who has a low resistance to infections.
The notice said city utility customers would be informed when it is no longer necessary to boil the water.
Immediately after the notices went out, the H-E-B Food Store in Beeville accepted the delivery of a large drinking water tank trailer from its company headquarters.
Sheila Poorman, unit director of the store in Beeville, said the company has been refilling the trailer regularly since it was delivered.
The tank has been the only source of water for the store since the notice was issued.
The city’s water superintendent, Cesario Vela, was contacted Thursday afternoon and he said residents were still being asked to boil their water.
Vela said Michael Lentz, superintendent of the George P. Morrill Water Treatment Plant at Swinney Switch, had completed all the steps necessary to have the notice rescinded, but the TCEQ had not yet approved it.
Townsend, who was city manager in Corpus Christi from 1968 until 1982, told the council Tuesday that those responsible for treating the city’s water supply should not only correct the turbidity problem as quickly as possible but that they should “provide assurances that it will never happen again.”
The interim city manager said he has asked the city’s utility director to meet those requirements. He said a surge of water down the Nueces River should not be an excuse for insufficient treatment of the water at the Swinney Switch plant.
Townsend also addressed suggestions made by Vela at an Oct. 22 City Council meeting, that he be allowed to prepare the specifications for bid notices for the painting of city water storage tanks and for the installation of an emergency generator at the wastewater treatment plant east of the U.S. Highway 181 Bypass.
Agenda items called for the city to enter agreements with Urban Engineering for the preparation of those specifications, but Vela told the council that he could prepare the specifications and save the city the expense of having an engineer do the job.
Engineer Stephen Grunewald of Urban Engineering suggested that the council table action on those agenda items. He said he needed to research state law to determine if those specifications would require a certified engineer to prepare them.
Townsend told the council Tuesday that the specifications of any project that would have a cost of $50,000 or more must be prepared by a registered engineer.
The city manager said he had reviewed the specifications for one of those requests for bids and had found mistakes in the notification. He said the request was not yet ready to be published.
Townsend then told the council that he would like to request that Vela not be involved in the preparation of the two projects until the city’s water quality has been addressed. He said the city’s water department should be working full-time on correcting the water treatment issues.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.