Water well failures trigger rationing at Connally Unit state prison
by Joe Baker
Aug 11, 2013 | 1300 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENEDY – Complaints by inmates at the Connally Unit state prison concerning water issues surfaced in local media reports last week.

The reports said inmates were unable to shower for several days and some toilets lacked enough water to flush.

According to City Manager Ford Patton, the water shortage at the prison happened as a result of mechanical failures at two of the city’s five water wells that happened at the same time.

Patton said Well 15, which has been in service for about eight months, went offline on the morning of Sunday, July 21.

When employees with Veolia, who operates the city’s water system, learned about the failure of Well 15, attempted to turn on Well 14, which had been rehabilitated recently.

“Within three or four hours after it being turned on, it went down,” said Patton. “Those are our two best water wells.”

The fact that both wells went down at the same time, put a severe limit on the amount of water the city’s system could produce, Patton explained.

Veolia notified the prison about the water issues and officials with the Connally Unit placed limits on water usage until the situation could be resolved.

Patton explained that Veolia workers as well as other contractors worked hard to bring both wells back online as quickly as possible.

Once the repairs were completed, water quality tests needed to be passed to ensure the water was drinkable.

Well 14 was put back into operation on Friday, Aug. 2., Patton said, and Well 15 is now operational, but awaiting a clear test to be reconnected to the water system.

The Connally Unit, Patton explained, is by far the city’s largest water customer, consuming about 22 million gallons of water each month. Patton noted that the prison’s average water usage has doubled since it was first built in 1995.

The prison, which is outside the city limits, currently uses more than half of the water produced by the city’s water system, Patton said, even though the prison population of about 2,000 is far fewer than the city’s 3,330 residents.

As far as he knows, the prison was the only water customer affected by the recent issue. The system was able to maintain adequate storage, despite the failures of the two wells, he said.

The city is currently exploring ways to enhance the city’s ability to increase water production capacity, Patton said.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson John Hurt told The Karnes Countywide late last week that the issue was resolved late last week.

Hurt said that when the city’s wells failed, it caused water to be drawn out of the TDCJ water tower on site at the prison.

There was plenty of drinking water, Hurt explained, but the number of showers were limited for a few days. An inmate is normally allowed one shower per day, he said.

Water tanker trucks were brought in by TDCJ to help supply water to the prison, Hurt said.
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