Mayor: “It is an emergency,” City of Laredo holds press conference on water situation

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 12:07 PM CST
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - The city of Laredo held a press conference on February 22 regarding the water situation in seven areas affected in the city. It’s been four days since many in the community have been without water.

At the press conference, Interim City Manager Samuel Keith Selman outlined the areas affected and the work done to improve it.

In order to restore services, Selman asked constituents to help conserve water. Some examples of non-essential water use to avoid: irrigations of lawns, filling of swimming pools, car washing or power washing, washing of building exteriors outside structures streets and parking lots. Other non-essential actions to avoid is operating hoses without nozzles and washing partial loads and washing machines and dishwashers.

Laredo Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Guillermo Heard says they are working with the state (Texas Division of Emergency Management) by buying water from HEB and working with county counterparts to acquire water. The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Texas Army National Guard have been assisting the city of Laredo since the beginning.

The City of Laredo Utilities Director, Arturo Garcia spoke about the issue, recounting the events that led to the pipe’s failure.

On February 18, city crews identified a leak on the 100 Frost Street. Crews say they noticed the issue was worse than expected. They were able to access the leaks and put clamps around the leaks, but more leaks were showing up on the line. They had a hydrostop installed to work the pipe. Crews were able to control the flow, isolate it, but as they kept digging, more failures occurred. Garcia says the main thing is to to maintain flow in the system.

There are two water plants in the city of Laredo identified as the El Pico and Jefferson Water Plant. The line that broke belongs to the Jefferson Water Plant. The water demand is taken up by the water tank on Lyon Street and those who live around it. Garcia stresses the importance to conserve water so others outside the Lyon area can get water. The city is requesting more supplies and materials to fix the line. Other crews and contractors are coming in to help in the matter.

Utilities Director Arturo Garcia says this is the first time he’s seen an issue like this. Garcia was appointed in 2020 as the city’s utility director.

Mayor Saenz says he will sign an emergency order to get more state resources to help with the water issue. As for how long people will be without water or under the boil water notice, a time frame is uncertain. He continues by adding that the issue has been years in the making, even before he took office. He says council should unite to fix this issue despite the price. The cost to fix this issue could be up to $50,000,000. The pipeline needing a replacement is about 50 years old and measures 300 feet long and 36 inches wide.

District 2 Councilmember Vidal Rodriguez said that prior to taking office, nothing was being done to fix the issue. He says the city has had this issue for the past six years since he took office and states that this is something the city has battled before their time. “Poor planning by prior management and prior council,” Rodriguez said.

The City of Laredo Emergency Operation Center along with Webb County will be distributing potable water at the UISD Student Activity Center (SAC) to residents who currently have a reduced or no water supply on February 22 at 11 a.m. Webb County is also helping to distribute water at the Mission San Carlos Church parking lot on Highway 359 at 12 p.m. Residents must use clean and empty containers. There is a limit of 100 gallons per household, limited to the day’s supply. Distribution will be done on a first-come, first-served basis and until supply lasts. UISD SAC is located at 5208 Santa Claudia Lane between Highway 359 and Highway 59.

The schools affected by low water pressure, or no water are on standby. They are currently uncertain on whether or not classes will resume on Wednesday, February 23.

One of the local hospitals is reporting no issues while the other is, but they assure their patients are being cared for.

Fire Chief Heard says since some areas have low water pressures, they have extra resources available to help in the event of a fire.

In total, more than 25,000 calls have been made to 3-1-1. They city says they are adding more call takers.

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