Mayor's Update #9: What is the Status of Our City Water?
By Mayor Bruce Peele
December 4, 2015
First, I need to quell a rumor. Blanco’s water supply is safe to drink. No one needs to boil water or do anything extraordinary. If this changes, the City will put out the word on the Reverse 911 system and through other means.
But we do have a significant problem – the City Water Plant.
Prior to the Memorial Day Flood, the City’s Water Plant drew water from the Blanco River, processed it, and provided safe drinking water for the City’s citizens. But now we’re buying all our water from Canyon Lake and at a much higher price than it previously cost us to process our own. So, one may ask, why are we not using the City Water Plant?
The simple answer is, we can’t. In the aftermath of the Memorial Day Flood, the City shut down the Water Plant to repair a broken clarifier drive that is used to stir the water. This is one of the steps necessary to make the water safe to drink. In the process of addressing that problem, we found that the Flood had deposited tons of sand and debris on the upriver side of the Water Plant dam. The dam is 12 feet tall but, at the dam, there is now only about two feet of water above the debris. This debris field extends back up river for approximately 200 feet, sloping down gradually to the river bed.
The City has repaired the broken clarifier and will soon clean one of the Water Plant tanks that was contaminated in the flood. But the intake valve is still buried under that sloping mound of underwater sand and debris.
The solutions seems simple – dredge out the sand and debris and clear the intake valve. But, unfortunately, it gets complicated.
First, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) told the City to dredge the river and then they told the City not to dredge. As we need FEMA’s funding to do the job, we’re awaiting their OK to proceed.
But there’s another problem -- to dredge the river, the City needs permit(s). Under the Federal Clean Water Act, we need the Corps of Engineers’ permission to dredge. We also need permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Part of the delay in securing these permissions was the possible presence of an endangered species of mussel, the Zebra Mussel, in the river. Fortunately, that has been addressed and is no longer a problem.
So, that is where we are, awaiting TCEQ and Corps of Engineer permission and FEMA funding. When these are obtained, the City wants to dredge not only behind the Water Plant dam but also behind the two dams upriver. Those dams and the bodies of water they impound increase the City’s storage capacity but, like the Water Plant dam, they have silted up with flood debris. While the Water Plant dam will require the services of a professional dredging company, the City is considering the purchase of a portable dredging machine to clean up behind the other dams and to do routine maintenance.
The City hopes to get this done as soon as possible and return to normal Water Plant operations. In the meantime, the City will continue to buy water from Canyon Lake but, rest assured, it is safe to drink.