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Water towers' delay looms large

Posted at 5:35 PM, Sep 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-10 20:40:02-04

In 2016, the City of Corpus Christi began construction of two new elevated water tanks that were supposed to be online and pumping water by February 2018.

That deadline, and others, have come and gone and there's still no water flowing from those tanks.

While the city believes those towers will eventually go online, it's going to take about another year.

The city promised the new water towers would improve its water system. Two years later, those towers, one on Holly Road near Everhart, the other on Rand Morgan sit empty.

“You want to make sure that when you bring them online, you bring them online correctly,” said Corpus Christi Director of Water Utilities Kevin Norton.

Not bringing the towers online correctly was the city's mistake in 2018. The tanks were supposed increase water pressure more than 50 prcent, from 40 to 65 psi. City leaders asked residents to make sure their home systems could handle the extra pressure: Instead, it was the city's system which couldn't the pressure.

“If I'd been in charge of that project, I definitely would have looked the structure of the pipes, the ability to take the pressure that the new system was going to put on it,” said Corpus Christi resident Geoffrey Boyle.

When the city turned on the towers, more than 40 water mains broke across the city.

“Part of that had to do with that -- it had been so dry -- but part of it was because of the increased pressure,” said Norton. “So then, at a certain point, the city -- we took them offline.”

The Holly tank cost $5.7 million to build, and the one at Rand Morgan cost $3.4 million.

Since their first attempt at getting the towers online, city crews have worked to upgrade the water system. New pipes were added, and some older ones were replaced and upsized. While Norton is confident the system will work when the towers go online, that may happen without a thorough test.

“You can't interrupt service,” Norton said. “If you are going to, looking at the condition assessments you've got to shut it down. How are you going to get water to residents, to businesses?”

Norton believes the best case scenario for getting the Holly and Rand Morgan Towers online is next summer. He said that since 2018, the city has invested about $10 million per year into a pipe replacement program, which should limit an impact on rate payers. The city also has $15 million for pipe replacement in its 2021 budget.

The city also plans to build two more of these towers; one in Flour Bluff, the other near Nueces Bay, at a cost of $7 million - $8 million each. Those towers were originally supposed to have finished construction this month, but Norton hopes they will be finished about the same time the Holly and Rand Morgan towers go online.