by Victor Lopez
FORT STOCKTON--Officials say problems with their plant are to blame. They want residents to know how serious the problem is and what they're doing to fix it.
When it was first installed, the reverse osmosis system, was state of the art. That was over a decade ago.
According to City Engineer, Raul Rodriguez, "At the moment, the biggest concern is the age of the system. It's not that old, compared to other items. It's a 12-14 year-old system, but it has outlived it's design life."
Two reservoir tanks provide 5 million gallons of water, per day, to the city. Due to repair and maintenance, one tank is empty, cutting down production to 3 million, and the city is going through 2 million gallons of water a day.
"As of today, the water quality is still good. It hasn't been affected, but that could change at any time," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says it's a four part problem. First, raw water is somehow mixing in with the R/O water at the main valve outside the plant. Number two, the steamer or filtration system is rusting and not working like it should. This is taking it's toll on the RO filters, creating problem number three.
"The RO system is a high pressure system. We're talking 300 psi, that runs through there. With corroded fittings, if you remove them and can't get a seal when you put it back on, your leaks get worse. That's a warranty issue, an insurance issue, so contractors will shy away from exposing themselves to that kind of risk," Rodriguez explained.
If the filtration system were working like it should, no dirt or residue of any kind would ever make it's way to the city's water supply. But as it is now, large pieces of metal and other things are getting past the filter, making their way to the RO system.
That brings us to part four. The reservoir tanks, like the whole system, are old and rusting, creating another set of problems, once the clean RO water is pumped inside.
In a perfect world, all the equipment and tanks would be replaced, costing the city upwards of $10 million. Rodriguez says their budget is only 1.7 million, "We have some money we've been able to plan for. We'll have to determine if it's going to be enough, if not, we'll have to do more planning. These are items that have to be taken care of. We can't let them run until they give out."
But there is some good news. With good, long range, future planning, Fort Stockton residents shouldn't see any increases in their water rates anytime soon.