ROCKDALE, Texas — It started Saturday afternoon: a water main break outside Rockdale city hall. Then, over the next two days, five more breaks in the surrounding area popped up, affecting about one hundred water customers.
"So first we have a pressurized leak outside city hall," said Barbara Holly, Rockdale city manager. "Men get called in on Saturday to fix it, and as they’re fixing it, the waterlines are so thin and brittle that it breaks again, and breaks again and breaks again.”
Rockdale’s new mayor, Brett Boren, was affected in multiple ways by the break. Not only is he tasked with helping to solve the issue as a local leader, but his restaurant, Brett's Barbecue, was one of those customers to lose water over Father’s Day weekend. Boren had to get creative,
"We just brought in water off a water truck and had that pumped in," he said. "Then we went to the local grocery store and brought in gallons of water. I had a hand wash and rinse station here.”
This problem is not at all a new one. Rockdale’s pipes are made of cast iron and are decades old. The pipes break and rust frequently, flowing with water from an aquifer that had previously been acidic for years until some more recent updates.
“We’re finally in the range the state environmental agency TCEQ requires us to be," Holly said. "So the water’s no longer red."
Though technically safe to drink by government standards, Holly said the red or brown colored water is a source of discomfort for many, and something that the town’s been using humor to cope with.
“If it’s no longer red, I’m not sure our football team will win anymore since they’re losing all that iron that’s been pumped into their little athletes' [bodies]," Holly said.
Rockdale city leadership has applied for a multi-million dollar grant from the state that will fix the pipes, Holly said. Right now, the plans are still in their blueprint phase with an engineering company, approximately 30% complete.
“We let the company know that this is a critical issue," Holly said. "Because if they had continued to fail, at some point you run out of pipe.”
Thankfully, those lines have been patched - for now. Over the weekend, the town survived because the community, including the police and fire department, came together to donate tanks and tubs of water to affected homes and businesses.
“The community is coming closer together," Boren said. "I know when the chief brought water to Patterson Center over the weekend, neighbors were helping neighbors. But we have to have a backup plan and be better prepared.”