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Hospital district contributes water to Terlingua outage

June 29th, 2017 under Top Stories

By JIM STREET

ALPINE – The Big Bend Regional Hospital District board informally agreed last week to contribute water to Terlingua and Study Butte after a major water pump failed, causing serious water supply problems.

Executive Director Quinton Sledge told the board the district learned of the problem too late to get an item on the agenda, which has to be published at least 72 hours before the meeting.

He said he conferred with attorney Greg Hudson, who told him that, because it was an emergency action, the board could first agree to put an item on the agenda for the next board meeting July 22 in Presidio.

Then it could discuss it but any action would have to ratified at that meeting.

Sledge agreed to take the first load to the Family Crisis Center in Terlingua Ghost Town, starting with two pallets of water donated by the Alpine Coca Cola Plant.

“We will do this again as long as needed,” Board Chair Lisa Taylor said.

The board set a limit on the district contribution at $2,000.

Others contributing drinking water were the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office, the Red Cross, West Texas Food Bank, Big Bend Brewery, Family Crisis Center and others and was available to those in need at the Terlingua EMS building and Big Bend Motor Inn..

The office of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd also contributed water and Laurie Holman was said to be bringing water from Presidio.

Taylor said the Red Cross, which was bringing water contributed by the Fort Stockton WalMart, would only provide it to those who could prove residency in the service area.

But the hospital district will provide water to any who need it, Taylor said.

Big Bend Resort and Adventures offered water, laundry and showers to needy residents and shower facilities at Maverick Ranch RV Park were available to SBWSC customers.

Big Bend National Park, Terlingua Fire and Emergency Services and others provided tankers to bring non-potable water to fill up the tanks and water was available at Lajitas.

Sheriff Ronny Dodson told Brewster County Commissioners Tuesday his Terlingua Deputy Patrick Hardin answered the call for a driver with a CDL to haul water and made several trips to the Bee Mountain tank. Brewster County Road and Bridge workers graded the road for the nearly-continuous truck traffic trying to replenish water supplies.

Pecos County also is contributing water and Texas Forest Service sent trucks this week.

Dodson called it a “real team effort” and the area is getting a lot of water.

“They used to get six bottles,” he said. Now, they are getting six cases.”

The crisis waxed and waned over the weekend and into this week. As late as Sunday morning, Study Butte Water Supply Corporation spokesman Rob Dean put out a release saying that water was available to most of South County but usage was too high to be sustainable.

Then later that same day, a new release said the water company was unable to maintain pressure in the east side of the system and water to Study Butte and west to Desert Sports was to be turned off to maintain pressure and preserve the remaining water.

Dean said Level 4 Emergency Water Conservation conditions had been declared and it was important to not waste water.

“Residents should not wash vehicles, water lawns, fill kiddie pools or use water carelessly,” he said. “Make sure taps are closed and not leaking. Water needed for consumption should be boiled per the posted Boil Water notice.”

It all started Sunday, June 18, when the major pump failed at the water plant, perhaps after being struck by lightning.  A new motor was expected to arrive on Thursday with hopes of installation, testing and production to be completed by Saturday.

Dodson said Skinner Well Service has agreed to immediately install the new pump motor as soon as it arrives.

Commissioners debated acquiring a backup pump in case of a future loss.

“We appreciate the encouragement and patience of our customers as we struggle together during this crisis,” said SBWSC board vice-president John Holroyd. “We also thank Brewster County and Big Bend National Park for their tremendous support.”

In other action at the Hospital District Board meeting last week, Big Bend Regional Medical Center CEO Diane Moore told the board the “active shooter” drill at the hospital June 13 was a success.

She said many participating law enforcement officers were surprised to see the “shooter” was played by Alpine Police Capt. Darrell Losoya.

She said they thought it was odd seeing the straight-laced officer stalking the hospital halls with a “cap pistol.”

The hospital is requited to have two drills every year. The next one will be a make-believe disaster like a major accident, complete with actors playing the parts of injured parties.

She was asked if the hospital had a contingency plan in case of a rupture and explosion on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline about a mile and a quarter north of the hospital.

Moore said if the explosion were large enough, the hospital would have to be evacuated. The Alpine Casparis Airport is nearby but in places much closer to the pipeline than the hospital.

She said ambulance buses are available for moving large numbers of patients but the nearest one is three-and-half hours away.

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