Behind the Scenes at the September 11 San Angelo Water System CrashOpinion
OPINION — On Sept. 11, the City of San Angelo experienced a significant water main break that was especially troublesome to locate and repair because of its isolated location. Two water towers were depleted, causing the water system in south San Angelo to quickly lose pressure. This loss in pressure necessitated the issuance of a citywide boil-water notice as a measure to keep citizens safe from potential water contaminants.
Through the whole ordeal, employees from the City’s Water Utilities and Operations departments worked closely together to quickly make the necessary repairs, while ensuring all citizens still had access to water in their homes. They worked long hours away from family in what can only be described as difficult, swamp-like conditions, while at the same time working to re-pressurize the water system.
Once the system was pressurized, samples could be taken and tested to ensure the safety of our water. These samples were submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for its approval to lift the boil-water requirement. All of this was completed by Sept. 13.
Considering all these challenges, this was a quick turnaround on the repairs and a speedy return to normal operations.
Needless to say, we are very proud of the staff and their performance.
What I found most troubling were those individuals in our community who were quick to place blame on these very workers – somehow faulting them for this water main break. I can assure you all cities across the country are faced with similar circumstances at one time or another. No municipality can guarantee its water system will never experience a significant water leak.
As an Army veteran, I know what it is to raise my right hand and swear to defend and protect this country, much like our police officers and firefighters swear to protect this fine city. So I value and have great appreciation for these officers and firefighters. However, often, these are the only City employees who receive strong support from our community.
Our non-civil service employees deserve as much support and appreciation. As evidenced by the events of Sept. 11-13, where would we be without these dedicated and loyal employees? Without water, that’s where.
These hard-working staff members are humble and do their jobs quietly without much notice or recognition. Many of them would shy away from the notion of being called more important than any other group of employees, but during this episode they were definitely the most important servants to this community!
The City often recognizes and applauds the effort of its first-responders in the police and fire departments, but rarely are the non-civil servant employees who are also first-responders recognized. These are the same groups of employees who quickly and efficiently came to the aide of this community to ensure that no one would go without water. During storms, these same staff members are the first to respond to set up barriers at dangerous intersections, to clear hazardous debris from streets, to make immediate repairs to damaged infrastructure to restore services, and to even guide stranded motorist to safety.
For those who were critical of our public servants in Water Utilities and Operations, it’s my sincere hope you will express appreciation to these staff members – pat them on the back and tell them, “Job well done!”
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