Company coming in Feb. 2 to check for leaks

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Employees in the District Clerk's office said they are fed up with the smell coming from down below at the Jim Wells County Courthouse.

They're taking a wait and see approach to the new testing, set for Feb. 2, intended to find the source of the nauseous odor.

But the employees are hesitant to be too optimistic about the results.

To Elena Delgado, Juana L. Garcia, Rosie Garcia and Norma Guerra, the problem of the smell is very much a painful reality.

Over the years, the ladies have experienced nausea, headaches, and painful eye irritation because of the stench which wafts in directly upon them through large overhead vents.

Jim Wells County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz said the county, through the JWC Safety Office, intends to try to get to the bottom of these odors once and for all.

JWC Safety Officer Israel Lopez has secured the services of Shoreline Plumbing out of Corpus Christi to conduct an inspection of the pipes and sewer lines in the building.

The company will run smoke through the pipes on Feb. 2 and then check for the presence of smoke in the upstairs area, to see where, if any leaks reside, or if the county is dealing with a broken pipe or a backed up or slowed line.

There are several possible reasons for the odor, Saenz said, and they hope the smoke will find the root cause.

If not, Saenz said the company is prepared to run cameras if necessary through the lines to check for breaks or obstructions.

For employees like Delgado, the problem continues.

She said last week the office was overcome with the "sewer odor" and the employees had to step outside into the lobby area, and finally into the courtroom last Thursday to get some clean air. Once the smell dissipated, the employees returned to work, but the smell came back again, Delgado said, this time with a vengeance.

"It was bad last Thursday. We had to sit in the lobby area, and it still smelled bad out there too," Delgado said.

The workers upstairs eventually evacuated the offices for the rest of the afternoon.

Often, the employees said, people give them strange looks, looks of disbelief, when they talk about how bad the smell can get in the courthouse.

"But they're not here, they don't know how it gets," Delgado said.

Juana Garcia said the smell is bad, and when it happens, it's unmistakable.

"Oh yes," she said adamantly, "when it comes in, you know it."

When the smells are bad, Rosie Garcia said her face turns really red. Her desk is situated directly below a vent.

"That's why we always cough," Garcia said.

The smell causes her to have waves of nausea, but she continues to do her job, despite the pains in her eyes.

"Hopefully the test will work, hopefully they'll find where the smell is coming from," Delgado said.