Monday, March 01, 2021

City Searching for Failed Backflow Preventers

The search for the source of toxic chemicals in San Angelo water continues.   City leaders believe the acetone, benzene and napthalene entered our drinking water supply through a failed or nonexistent backflow preventer.

San Angelo City Ordinances state:

Backflow Preventers. Backflow preventers shall be required by the Director of Public Works in [as] deemed necessary to protect the water system from possible contamination. 

Backflow prevention devices used in applications designated as health hazards must be tested upon installation and annually thereafter

Executive Director of Public Works Ricky Dickson is still listed in the City Directory, despite his absence from the official organizational chart.  

Dickson allowed San Angelo infrastructure (streets and water) to decline significantly during his decades of "we'll fix it when it breaks" management.   

I understand Dickson retired in January 2020.  Prior to that retirement Dickson was the man in charge of requiring backflow preventers.  His staff was in charge of annual testing of critical backflow devices. 

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela informed citizens the city is narrowing the list of possible culprits.  McAllen water staff found a number of businesses with failed backflow preventers. 

The city should share the inspection history of all industrial sites with failed backflow preventers.  When did the Director of Public Works require those industrial sites to have working backflow preventers.  How many were tested upon installation and annually afterwards?

Update 3-16-21:  Water Chief Allison Strube indicated the search for toxic chemical contaminants in the industrial part of town continues.  She said it could've taken a mere gallon of the dangerous chemicals to cause the widespread problems.  Strube gave no information on the number of industrial sites with backflow problems or the last time those sites were inspected.  

Update 3-17-21:  Inspectors from McAllen, Lubbock, Brownwood and Abilene visited San Angelo Industrial sites searching for the source of toxic chemical contamination.  Guest inspectors visited 85 facilities and businesses located in the northern industrial and PaulAnn areas. 

"As a result, locations with inadequate protection will be required to upgrade or install additional backflow devices to help protect the City’s potable water supply."  

The city has not indicated how many of the 85 sites need to upgrade or install backflow devices.  

The City of San Angelo will be hiring several CSIs in the near future and will be implementing a more rigorous cross contamination program citywide to greatly reduce the likelihood of an issue like this happening again.

This sounds like a Ricky Dickson thing.  After a TCEQ visit did Ricky say "we aren't going to do that."?

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