Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Council Bristles on Hiring Five CSIs to Meet TCEQ Requirements

The City of San Angelo has an August 3rd date to respond to three of the four deficiencies cited by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality for toxic chemical intrusion into the public water system in February 2021.   Staff never shared the TCEQ report findings in a public meeting and the required dates for response.  Today's budget session tackled the customer service inspection requirement and the number of staff needed to perform the work that has gone undone since at least August 2016.

Water Chief Allison Strube requested five new CSI positions during the discussion.  Council members mostly felt a jump to five was too great.  There were no TCEQ representatives in the budget session to educate Council members on their cross connection control program failures and actions needed to meet those standards.  Note:  City staff ignored these water standards for nearly five years and the public paid a very severe price for this extended incompetence.   

Mayor Gunter did not want money diverted from the capital account to pay for the five staff members.  No council member noted the current $28.5 million fund balance in the water operating fund.  Citizens paid higher and higher water bills for the last seven years for water that could easily have been contaminated due to city staff and leadership negligence.

On February 10, 2021, the City's Customer Service Department identified a meter, associated to Lone Star Beef, as showing a reverse flow (Attachment #6). 

The 3-meter accounts between December 1, 2020 and February 10, 2021, showed an estimated eighty (80) single hour events, instances with a negative consumption amount, totaling approximately -1,372,838.2 gallons of reverse flow. The account records showed forty-five days of zero ( o) readings as the total daily consumption, and six (6) "No Reading" listed as the total daily consumption. 

How many citizens drank, washed their hands or bathed in water that flowed backwards out of a meat processing plant?  No City Council member expressed a public concern about this finding.  

I hope TCEQ representatives watch the July 27th budget session.  It reveals city staff not being straightforward on TCEQ's investigative report and a reluctant city council in providing the public a competent water department and safe water supply.

Fixing gross incompetence comes with an urgency and a price.  There's little will to push and pay, and no energy for accountability.