The city of Fort Worth has lifted it's boil water notice, but thousands are still without water due to broken pipes on private and city property.
Since Feb. 14, there have been 611 water main breaks in Fort Worth. The city's water department repaired 361 and had another 83 possible main breaks to investigate.
"No estimate at this point because new breaks are coming in," Fort Worth Water Department spokesperson Mary Gugliuzza said of the repair times. "The issue for us is water temperature, not air temperature, and while we love the warmer weather, because it will warm up the water that's in the lakes, it takes a few days for that to happen. So, we still expect to see breaks for another day or two."
She said they have about 30 different crews working and personnel from the Fort Worth Parks and Recreation Department, are helping by loading trucks and trailers and bringing equipment to crews. They've also hired outside contractors to help with the workload.
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"We're just trying as best as we can to get these things fixed as quickly as we can. We know customers who've been without water are not happy, we understand but we really are trying our best to get to these as quickly as we can," Gugliuzza said.
The city's interactive map shows where water main breaks are located and the number of dots indicates there's still a lot more work to do.
The water department said it's trying to prioritize who's been out the longest, but also consider at the size of the pipes. Larger pipes are a little more urgent to fix because that means more water is leaking. They are also strategizing how to fix pipes in the same area so crews don't waste time driving back and forth across the city.
The other time-consuming part, crews have to make sure the area is safe before they start to dig to avoid hitting underground utilities like gas, telecommunications or electric lines.
"There's a process, it's not that easy, and (water main) breaks aren't all made the same either," Gugliuzza said.
Some of the pipes have holes that crews can just clamp, while most of the breaks are the pipe splitting in half, so crews have to cut a new section of pipe to make the repair.
Most of the pipes that are having issues are the older cast-iron pipes, according to Gugliuzza.
"We haven't used cast iron in decades, but there was a time when cast-iron was new material for water mains, and so we still have hundreds of miles of cast-iron pipes in our system," she said.
The city said eventually the cast-iron pipes, which make up for about 25% of the lines, would be replaced, but it would be a decades-long project.
Gugliuzza said they were prepared for main breaks and knew that with the single-digit temperatures, there would be an increase in breaks. The water department had plans to minimize the amount of water they were using from Lake Worth and the Holly Water Treatment Plant to minimize the impact, but the power outages threw a wrench in the plans.
"Unfortunately, the power outages came first, and impacted our ability to treat and store water in the rest of the system and so we were forced to push the water and use more water from Lake Worth and the Holly Plant than we had planned and that kind of exacerbated the situation for us," Gugliuzza said.
The city said even once they get past fixing the water mains, the next part will be repairing the roads.
"This isn't going to be over anytime soon for us because once we do get the main break situation stabilized normal level of main breaks, then everyone is going to want to know, 'When are the streets getting fixed?' And with over 600 street cuts, you can imagine, that's going to take months to catch up on, so I just want to prepare folks for that," she said.
It's no secret that crews are being put to the test.
"Our employees are getting tired, I'm going to be honest. They've been at this for 10 days now, well over a week. It's really not just field crew, call center which went 24/7 same level of staffing. Folks at the plants, the operators, the mechanics, our meter services folks have been responding to emergency shutoffs of water as everybody's pipes froze and burst in their homes and businesses," Gugliuzza said. It's been a utility-wide effort through this and employees still plowing through it."
Gugliuzza, who has been with the city for 25 years, said this is the "worst winter weather episode" she's seen.
The city hasn't yet compared this event to the one in the winter of 1983-84 between Christmas and the New Year, but said during that time they had 1,400 main breaks in a 20-day period.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, whose home also flooded due to pipes bursting, said there are 10 water distribution stations set up across the city.
"I would ask citizens and residents, check on their neighbors. If they're going to get for themselves, see if they got a neighbor they can help out," Price said.
She said FEMA, the Texas State Guard, business partners such as Coca-Cola, and Vandervoort's Dairy and many others helped with getting water to people.
She said the Marines Corps brought a water buffalo into a neighborhood so people could fill up water.
There are several distribution sites that will hand out water from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Those locations include:
- Beth Eden Baptist Church, 3208 Wilbarger St., 76119
- RD Evans Community Center, 3242 Lackland Road, 76116.
- Iglesia Templo Jeruselen, 2421 NW 18th St., 76106.
- Sycamore Community Center, 2525 E. Rosedale St., 76105.
- Birchman Baptist Church, 9100 N. Normandale St., 76116. open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.