Treatment plant project moving along

Sue Fleming, The Freer Press

The Freer Water Control Improvement District was recently named a recipient of the 2006 Total Coliform Rule Program Award by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for outstanding implementation of measures that protect source water from contamination.

"We're proud to have received this award," said Vincente Guerra, manager. "We've never had contamination problems."

Last month in Corpus Christi, three of five sites were tested positive for human bacteria after which a citywide boil-water notice was issued for three days.

Corpus Christi officials say they were unable to find the exact cause for the contamination.

Guerra says once a month water samples are taken from three different locations in Freer along with two well samples for analysis in Corpus Christi at the Department of Public Health Lab Division.

"After testing, they send a report to TCEQ and one to us and they've always been good," he said.

Six fire hydrants in various parts of town are also flushed each month to prevent stagnation, he says.

In case of a leak, chlorine is carefully applied at the break and it's flushed, further preventing contamination.

In a letter to board president Carlos Garcia, TCEQ praised the accomplishments of the local water district for its dedication and effort in protecting public health.

"Every day when I turn on the faucet, I'm thankful to have good water. Some people take it for granted and it's a blessing," he said. "There's some towns that have brown, cloudy water but we don't."

Garcia says the district is also looking forward to finishing work on the city's water quality project in the fall of 2008. After completion, arsenic levels in the water supply will be lowered from .040 mg/L to the government standard of .010 mg/L.

TCEQ mandates that exceeded chemical limits must be treated to be in compliance with state regulations so the only alternative of treatment for water was building this plant. TCEQ mandates, but they don't give any funding, Garcia said.

"Though people have been drinking the water here for years without problems, we are working to comply with the mandate but it takes time and a lot of money - we've had no choice," Garcia said.

Officials say Phase 1 of the project, which has been completed, consisted of the drilling of two water wells and laying water lines and fiber optic cable about seven miles south of Freer.

Each well pumps approximately 200 gallons of water per minute. A fiber optic cable was also laid for the purpose of a SCADA system, which will monitor the water levels and functions of the wells.

Phase 2 of the project will begin this October consisting of the construction of the water treatment plant and installation of the SCADA system.

A 50-foot, by 90-foot facility will house the treatment plant, chlorine station and small lab, as well as a small computer room for the SCADA system.

A 300,000 gallon storage tank will also be built next to the existing 750,000 gallon standpipe. As a pump station sends the finished product into the standpipe, another pump station will then pump the treated water south of town.

Customers currently connected to the transmission water line from the wells will be connected to a new eight-inch water line south of town.

With the project estimated to cost $4.2 million, it has been necessary to apply gradual rate increases during the last few years, officials said.

Utility officials and board members thank all customers for their cooperation and understanding in this course of action to have safe and better drinking water, Garcia said.

"If anyone has any questions or would like to talk to me, please feel free to do so," said Garcia.

"I'll be glad to answer any questions."