Winter Storm Update
Afternoon of Monday, Feb. 22, 2021
As of this afternoon, we continue to struggle with keeping up with the demand on our system. Today we have experienced water main breaks and damage from electrical system fluctuations that occurred during and after the storm.
Around 10 a.m. we had a 12-inch water main break. This break impacted our system in two ways. First, we had to shut down the operation of one of our booster pumps to relieve pressure on a nearby valve and to ensure the safety of our crews. This also meant that we required a large amount of water to refill and recharge this line putting us further behind in keeping up with demand.
In addition, one of our six wells stopped functioning. This well pump was replaced last summer and likely stopped due to the fluctuations in the power supply over the past week. Our contractor responded immediately and is on-site making repairs.
The main computerized controls of our water system also suffered significant damage during and after the storm. We have an antenna located on top of one of our water towers that had to be replaced and new cabling that had to be run down the length of the tower. As this system was repaired yesterday and through today, we continued to experience failures in other linked equipment and as a result of electrical fluctuations.
Other operational updates:
- We are sourcing water from the City of Tyler.
- We have brought in additional crews to ensure swift responses to any main breaks or leaks.
- Flushing through fire hydrants has been significantly reduced but must continue to prevent damage and to improve water quality.
- The City Hall awning damaged by the storm has been removed allowing safe operations at the City drive-through beginning tomorrow, February 23.
- Trash services resumed on the normal schedule today.
- We have contacted the local car washes to cease operations.
- Police, Fire and Administrative staff have been assisting by turning meters off and on so Public Works crews can focus on main breaks and leaks.
Again, service will be intermittent as our system comes back online. Customers can expect that we will experience water main breaks, leaks, sewer stoppages and other things that may impact our supply. When you receive water you can expect there to be sand or dirt, discoloration, air, odor, and milky water. Once you have full pressure at your home, you only need to run your faucets for a few minutes to ensure your lines are functioning properly. Please do not continually run your water to try and clear it up.
Conservation will still be necessary to ensure our system remains up and running. If each and every Whitehouse resident does their very best to make this community effort a success, we will be able to continue to provide water to the entire City on our way to returning to full capacity.
If you experience a leak in your home or you observe a water main break, it is critical that you call (903)510-7500, option 3. If it is an after-hours emergency call (903)245-8274. We need to immediately address any leaks and breaks to ensure we have enough water to continue to distribute.
Preventative Measures for Water Restoration
If you believe you have a leak or busted pipe and you can find your shut off valve you may want to turn off water service to your house. If you cannot find that valve you can turn off service at your water meter. There are a few different types of valves used for our water meters. Most valves require a half turn clockwise to shut off the water; others may require a three-quarter turn. Some valves have an arrow on top of the valve while others do not. If there is an arrow and it faces the house that indicates the valve is on and if facing the street it is closed. Please be sure to turn the valve slowly and do not over turn the valve as this could damage it and cause a leak. If you are unsure about this process please contact the water department during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 903-510-7500 option #3 or after hours at 903-245-8274.
If you are not turning off your service at your house or meter you may want to check all faucets or fixtures to ensure they are off.
Signs of Home Repair Scams
How can you tell if a contractor might not be reputable? You may not want to do business with someone who:
- knocks on your door for business or offers you discounts for finding other customers
- just happens to have materials left over from a previous job
- pressures you for an immediate decision
- only accepts cash, asks you to pay everything up-front, or suggests you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows
- asks you to get the required building permits
- tells you your job will be a "demonstration” or offers a lifetime warranty or long-term guarantee
- doesn’t list a business number in the local telephone directory
Additional information about hiring a contractor can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website.
If road conditions permit regular scheduled trash pickup for residential and commercial customers will resume Monday, 2/22/21 on your scheduled day. Trash collection will focus on household trash pickup only at this time. Curbside recycling will resume Wednesday, 3/3/21 and bulk item pickup will resume Thursday, 3/4/21.
Republic Services will pick up additional trash bags on your regular trash day that are placed next to your blue trash cart for the next 2 trash pick ups.
Report Your Disaster Impacts
If you have/had frozen pipe water damage to your home, please fill out this survey to explain your damages. TDEM will share your information with FEMA and FEMA Region 6 offices. Please report your damages here or here(Spanish).
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I turn off my water meter?
If you are concerned about leaks and busted pipes once water is restored, you can turn off your water service. Many homes have a green circular lid next to the foundation that contains the ball valve which will turn off the water to the house. If you are unable to locate this disconnect you can turn off your service at your water meter. To turn the water off at the meter you will need a meter key or channel lock pliers. Carefully open the meter lid leaving the large wire intact. Locate the toggle valve or key and turn it until the eyelets (holes) line up. (Example photo of valve below)
Will my water be disconnected for non-payment?
Once the water is restored the City does not plan to conduct non-payment water disconnects for those who have not already paid their water, sewer, and garbage bill. Please make this payment along with the March bill due by 4:30pm on 3/10/2021.
Why are we out of water?The City of Whitehouse has two main water sources. Wells, and a secondary connection to the City of Tyler. Normally, the City uses six wells to supply the City with water. When power outages began, all City wells were without power. We had generators suppling power to the wells, but they are intended to run critical infrastructure and are not equipped to keep pipes and equipment from freezing in subzero temperatures. We managed to keep two wells operational but it was not enough to supply the system and running these two wells without relief would result in long-term outages. Even with our secondary supply with the City of Tyler, our supply and fill lines connecting to their system are frozen as well.
What is it going to take to get water restored?
Warmer temperatures. We hope to see a warming trend over the next several days that will help thaw our frozen pipes and allow our systems to get back online.
Why weren't we better prepared?
We have never dealt with a storm system like this. We always try to account for likely possibilities when designing critical infrastructure. We plan for power outages, tornadoes, flooding, and other disasters. Much like many other cities and utilities, we weren't designed to operate in these temperatures.
Why do other water providers still have water?
Every water system is different. Some water systems are wholly dependent upon other water suppliers, some use a combination of either other suppliers, ground water (wells), or surface water (lakes). Every plant and distribution system includes a myriad of factors that are specific to that location and that system's needs.
Systems have also experienced outages for different reasons. Some have experienced large-scale main breaks, some have had significant increases in demand as people fill bathtubs, drip faucets and experience leaks at their homes. Each of these issues requires a different resolution. Some systems need people to conserve, others need conservation and main break fixes, while others, like us, need warmer weather.
What is the City going to do moving forward?
Over the next few weeks we will do a review of our systems to determine how we can better serve our community. This will include more than just our infrastructure systems. We will look across all of our operations to determine where improvements can be made.