Odessa, Texas – Residents of the western Texas city of Odessa have been collecting emergency water supplies after a water system outage caused it to swell and dry for days in sweltering heat, even as utility crews scrambled Wednesday to restore normal service.
The city said taps in 165,000 homes and businesses had lost pressure or had dried up completely after a 24-inch (61 centimeters) main break Monday afternoon. The Odessa water treatment plant was restarted by 8 a.m. Wednesday, but utility officials said it could take 12 to 14 hours to complete the “recharge” process, during which workers slowly return water to the system to ensure there are no more leaks. .
Temperatures approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in Odessa Wednesday as Texas and most of the United States faced extremely hot and humid conditions. And while the city typically sees hot weather in June, the timing of the break made dealing with this week’s heat even more difficult.
“I want to assure you that we are using every resource at our disposal to ensure that this community is returned to the way it was before this massive outage,” City Manager Michael Marrero said in a Facebook video posted on Wednesday afternoon. He and Public Works Director Thomas Kerr once again urged residents to boil tap water to kill any bacteria before ingesting it.
Resident Nikki Friday told The Associated Press that the city was providing bottled drinking water and that people with wells were providing water from hoses to neighbors. She also said tanker trucks were parked around town to fill up buckets with water.
“Drinking water was not a problem,” he said on Friday. “We just need water to get back into our daily lives and into the community.”
Linda Wright, a resident of Lifelong in Odessa, said water service has not been lost throughout the city for more than five decades she lived there. She said she picked up the water and ice from Midland, a 15-minute drive from her home.
Wright said she has potable water stored in jugs for washing hands and brushing teeth, and that her family has connected her home to a well on her property to provide water for restrooms.
“We dropped a hose in the (water) line,” she said.
Wright said she noticed the water started running again in the afternoon but the pressure didn’t immediately return to its normal strength.
The city, located about 330 miles (530 kilometers) west of Dallas, planned to distribute water to residents at the Ector County Coliseum as well as deliver water to nursing homes. Deputy city manager Philip Urrutia said water tankers were strategically placed around the city to respond to any fires.
“It’s the aging infrastructure that we’re seeing. It’s a cast iron pipe, so those are usually more susceptible to breakage than other new technologies like PVC pipes going into the ground,” he said.
Wright said the city should act to prevent another water emergency.
“I just hope they knew we needed to get there, we need to check those lines and fix the ones that are showing signs of age and wear,” she said.
Associated Press writers Ashley Dong in Chicago and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this story.