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Aging water infrastructure problems continue in Odessa

Odessa has been going through a cycle of water issues for quite some time now and it can only be described one way: "completely unacceptable," according to City Manager John Beckmeyer.

For the fifth time in 2024, the city has experienced a major water line break and there is a common factor between them all: aging infrastructure. 

"I talked to a resident that have been there has been there since that neighborhood was built," Beckmeyer said. "They were put in in the mid 50s, so we're talking about 70-year-old pipes."

Along with age, the time of year and change in temperature can cause friction with pipes and valves causing them to burst. That, however, is not the only hole city management is trying to plug. 

"Whenever these lines break, we can't isolate the break," Beckmeyer said. "If we could isolate the break, there would be no effect to anyone except the people just right there on that street. Because we can't isolate these larger breaks like this, it ends up in a situation like it was this weekend where we had to shut the water plant down to relieve the pressure on the line so that we could get into the hole, pump it out, get into the hole, and to make the repair."

Looking toward solutions, Beckmeyer told us the city has put out a request for proposal (RFP) with contractors. This will tell us which valves are broken and need replacing and which ones are in good condition. 

"The RFP is open right now and it takes a couple months to get that in, but it's going to be an ongoing process," he said. "I mean it's truly going to be an ongoing process."

Once that phase is complete, a city team will be put into place to monitor the integrity of the water system. 

"Basically, two to three people that that's what their job is, is to go around to these valves that have been identified and to open and close them periodically so many times a year," Beckmeyer explained. 

In the past, the city did have a crew like this, but it was removed due to cost-cutting measures. 

Funds believed to go down the drain is the least of the city manager's concerns. 

Now, Odessa says it's not willing to accept that anymore. 

"I would apologize to him, but at the same time that doesn't really solve their problem," he said. "We're working on it and as far as as funding goes, I'm looking into every type of funding. From private funding to the Texas Water Development Board to what we can do in the budget to any kind of financing that I can to start alleviating this problem."

Unfortunately, Beckmeyer does predict more line breaks, but with a new level of proactivity, Odessa plans to stay ahead of the flow and not pull the plug on any efforts to protect this much-needed community resource.

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