Improvements include fire hydrants

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

This month, the Jim Wells County Fresh Water Supply District No. 1 was selected to receive $3,245,118 through the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development agency's Community Program Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program.

This will be Phase II of a two-phase project.

"The USDA Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal Programs target public health benefits and economic opportunities in America's rural communities," USDA Rural Development State Director Bryan Daniel said in a press release this week. "Projects such as this one in Ben Bolt will help make the environment cleaner and protect the public health for local residents."

Prior to the Phase Improvements, the facilities in Ben Bolt were essentially unchanged from the original 1979 construction and the improvements were needed to maintain compliance with requirements of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, TCEQ.

With the assistance of the Rural Utility Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, the Water District acquired approximately $1.3-million grant/loan funds for the needed improvements; the regional USDA RUS office located in Alice.

Homero Castillo, an engineer working on the design phase of Phase II, said the construction of Phase I improvements began in June 2002 and completed in May 2003.

"The Phase I improvements included the purchase of about four-acres for the development of a new Booster Pump Station located on the northside of Town of Ben Bolt. The new station included a new water well, ground water tank, booster pumps house with disinfection system, and an elevated water tank," Castillo said.

The improvements also included a new Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system to locally and remotely monitor and control of the system operation. The improvements also included a new 2400-square foot Administration Building located on Salazar Street in Ben Bolt.

The most noticeable improvement to the user is "water pressure," Castillo said. "The District now has a secondary, backup, water source. Due to capacities, the district was unable to allow new water taps however the increased size of pumps and storage tanks, the District is now capable increasing the number of user to 1,200."

Phase II improvements are currently in design and construction may begin in late summer, officials said. The proposed improvements include increased distribution pipe sizes and a number of hydrants for improved fire protection; relocation of the original Booster Pump Station including a second water well, ground storage tank, and booster pump house. The new booster pump house will have accommodations for a future Reverse Osmosis Filter System.

In fiscal year 2006, $105.7 million of loan and grant assistance was distributed throughout rural Texas to 625,165 households. The program is designed to bring fresh, clean drinking water and sanitary, environmentally sound sewage facilities to rural America's 53 million residents.