Weather shifts snap multiple water mains
After a month that saw more than two dozen water main breaks in Friendswood, the city is assuring residents that water quality has not been affected.
In August, city crews responded to 31 main breaks. That compares with a combined total of 24 busted water pipes from June 2016 through August 2017.
While the breaks occurring throughout the city are an inconvenience, they do not pose a threat to the quality of drinking water, according to city spokesman Jeff Newpher.
“We want to assure residents that if there is ever an issue where the safety of the water is an issue, we will let them know: through social media, phone calls to affected areas, emails and the city’s webpage and TV channel,” he said.
Gumbo soil, which contains a heavy amount of clay and is a longtime thorn in the side of Gulf Coast gardeners, is the cause of the breaks.
The soil reacts to extremes, and recent weather trends have provided the perfect storm for busted lines as the soil contracts and expands, Newpher said.
When that one-extreme-or-the-other cycle occurs with frequency, it can wreak havoc on water lines.
A dry spell throughout August was followed by the consistent downpours to start September.
“In a perfect world, we would have the same amount of rain over a period of time, but we don’t, we have ups and downs,” Newpher said.
The breaks have nothing to do with the quality of pipes or any dysfunction of the main system, he said.
In addition to the 31 breaks in August, the city reported a total of 21 during June and July.
The city’s public works crews can only remain on standby as the city monitors water pressure and encourages residents to report lower-than-usual pressure in their area, or patches of ground on their property made spongy through saturation.
During a water main break, city crews will locate and turn off the valve to the broken pipe and replace the pipe. That usually takes no more than a few hours, during which the water source in that area is cut off.
The city’s public works department is on alert around the clock for breaks, Newpher said.
The city is on alert to address more issues this month if necessary.
“It’s very difficult to predict what is happening under the ground, but if we continue to have a very wet couple of weeks in a row, the pendulum swings the other way,” Newpher said. “Until we get back into a weather pattern where, instead of the spikes in rainfall or lack of rainfall, we will continue to experience water main breaks at a higher than normal level.”
The city continuously monitors water safety, he said.
“It is an inconvenience, but the city is trying to find ways, if there are ways, to reduce the number of times this happens,” Newpher said. “We call this an ‘act of God,’ there’s no ordinance or resolution that can change this.”
The city is urging resident who experience low water pressure or other water issues to call 281-996-3380 during regular business hours (from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday) or 281-996-3300 after hours.