Going with the flow: Public works endured challenges to keep water system operational

Water leaks, broken pipes and frozen equipment. The City of Temple’s Public Works Department endured myriad of challenges to keep vital services online for residents during Winter Storm Uri.

“I’m proud of my staff. They worked day and night in the cold, nasty weather without complaining,” Assistant Public Works Director Kenton Moffett said. “We battled through all that admirably.”

As residents were stranded at home without electricity, the need to keep the water supply functional became a top priority for the city.

“We had staff responding around the clock to water leaks all over town. Guys were out working in the dark, in the snow and ice to stay on top of those water leaks,” Public Works Director Don Bond said. “There were several things that had to be responded to and repaired at the water plant.”

A water main break on Avenue P led to a boil water notice as pressure dropped significantly, but crews quickly repaired the line and refilled storage tanks.

“It’s a major achievement that we were able to avoid going into a boil water notice until we did, and that when we did, it was quickly responded to and we were able to isolate the potentially affected area,” Bond said.

As the department was working to keep water flowing, it also responded to deteriorating road conditions throughout the City. Workers worked 12-hour shifts to preemptively sand roadways before the freeze. However, both of the City’s sanding trucks suffered equipment malfunctions, and specialty parts weren’t readily available.

“We started sending people out with pickups and shovels to sand priority spots like the hospitals and some major commercial areas that were providing critical supplies to people,” Bond said. “That’s pretty hard work. It’s always dangerous to be working in the public right of way, but even more so when there are hazardous driving conditions.”

But through it all, the department was able to pull together to meet the needs of residents during unprecedented conditions.

“There was a really good sense of teamwork,” Moffett said. “It just always felt like you had help. It was a good atmosphere to face adversity in.”