Contractors digging near the intersection of South Railroad and Johnson Street Thursday, Feb. 11, damaged a 12” water main that left utility workers working tirelessly throughout the night in frigid temperatures and the entire city without water.
At approximately 4 p.m. the break was discovered, and employees worked diligently to repair the leak. The large leak quickly depleted the water in the system and in the water towers.
Since the leak was a short distance to the city pump station located on Malcolm Street, the shutoff valve had to be turned off at the pump station to prevent water from continuing to fill the hole where the broken water main was located.
Although the community was inconvenienced, they rallied around the city workers who worked to restore water. Dillon Hughes, owner of Only 1 Rentals in Navasota, brought the workers a 125,000 BTU Radiant Heater to try and keep the workers warm while working in the cold, wet, hole. Jennifer Ramirez, city of Navasota resident and NISD school board member, provided the workers with hot chocolate. Bobby Maredia, owner of Annie’s Deli, fed the workers. Stafford said he thanks the citizens for their support and patience while the city was without water.
The water outage forced many businesses to close (especially restaurants) and left citizens unprepared with no time to gather water for necessities such as flushing toilets or bathing. Crews repaired the broken water main just before 11 p.m. but the process of restoring water back to the citizens was far from complete.
“Once the pipe was repaired and the new piece was installed, workers had to start the process to pump water back into the system,” explained Navasota City Manager Brad Stafford. “You have to build it back up slowly to prevent water-hammer in the pipes.”
Water hammer (hydraulic shock) occurs when a pressure surge or wave is forced to stop or change direction suddenly. It usually occurs when a valve closes at one end of a pipeline system and a pressure wave propagates in the pipe. The pressure wave can cause major problems from noise and vibration to pipe rupture or collapse.
Stafford stated the first step is to open fire hydrants to bleed air in the system. Once that is complete, workers begin to pump the system back up which Stafford explained is very time consuming because the city has approximately 600 miles of water lines. “You have to fill those water lines and begin filling the water towers before you can build pressure,” stated Stafford.
While the water is being re-filled, chlorine must be added to the system to ensure any bacteria that may be present in the system is killed. Until the water is tested and meets a chlorine residual of 0.20 mg/L and passes a bacterial test inspection, the city must remain under a “Boil Water Notice.”
Once the pressure is slowly restored then the system must be flushed which means reopening hydrants.
Navasota Independent School District kept in contact with city officials and elected to begin school at the regularly scheduled time Friday, Feb. 12. NISD Superintendent Dr. Stu Musick stated all campuses had water except Navasota High School and Navasota Junior High. Those campuses began receiving water at approximately 9 a.m. with low water pressure.
Musick was appreciative of all the hard work by city staff and sent out a newsletter confirming his gratitude.
“Navasota ISD Family and Rattler Nation, when you see a white truck driving around town that says City of Navasota So Much - So Close, make sure you wave and say hello! Also, if you see any of the City of Navasota staff, make sure you say, “Thank You!” If they look tired, you might even buy them a cup of coffee. They were outside all night long, standing in the water, in the 35-degree temperatures, and in the rain trying to fix a pipe so we could all have water this morning. Thank you, Mr. Stafford, Mayor Miller, and your entire team for all your hard work! We all appreciate what you do for us every day and especially what it took last night!”
Stafford anticipated the chlorine residual to be reached by Sunday, Feb. 14, and the “Boil Water Notice” to be lifted Monday, Feb. 15, but due to inclement weather conditions the city is unable to get a water sample to the lab to be tested. Residents are reminded to continue to boil water for consumption until further notice — including water from filtration systems. Water may be used to wash hands, bathe, do laundry, wash dishes etc. Do not use ice machines until the notice has been lifted and run a few cycles before using ice from the machine once it has been cleared.
Stafford said he hopes the “Boil Water Notice” can be lifted late Wednesday, Feb. 17 or Thursday, Feb. 18 but that is subject to change dependent on freezing weather conditions.
Nine utility workers, Lieutenant Mike Mize, and several contractors hired to install valves to help speed the process worked throughout the night. Stafford said he is grateful for all their hard work.
The city is looking at contracts they had with the contractor that was responsible for breaking the water main to see if they were digging within the parameters stated in the contract. Stafford stated he is unsure if the contractor may have been digging outside the parameters or if they received clearance from 811 (Call Before You Dig). According to Stafford, the contractor could potentially be reliable for damages incurred if they were not in compliance with the contract.
For any questions regarding the “Boil Water Notice” or more information on the water main break, contact the city of Navasota, 936-825-6475.