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Jefferson County Water District No. 10 rebuilds facility following flooding Posted on May 10, 2022


Thomas McDonald - General Manager, Jefferson County Water District No. 10

My name's Tommy McDonald and I'm the general manager, district manager for the Jefferson County Water District 10. It's a 2.2 square mile area that's carved out between the City of Beaumont north and the City of Nederland to the south.

During Hurricane Harvey, we knew we were told by the forecasters that the system would dump a lot of rain. We've seen 20-inch rains, we've seen 10-inch rains; we haven't seen this type of amount of rain in this short period of time. It was just devastating. My fire department called me, was out doing rescues, actually, and called me and said it was horrible. I needed to get to work. This was all under water, roughly two feet. And first thing we did was shut off the main breaker, kill everything so it's safe. It came up fast, and it stayed for about 12 hours, and then it started to recede. It was bad. I mean, I've grown up here and I've never seen water like this. It was roughly 72 inches of rain in three or four days.

There's only nine of us here. And we started getting to work trying to remove carpet and get stuff out of the building and get things dried out. You know, this sheet rock has been put back twice in the last three years, first with Hurricane Harvey and then, of course, followed up a year and a half later with Imelda. Our operators and crew worked in anywhere from two feet of water or less. So, it's really been difficult to provide—you know, not only work safely in horrible conditions, but to provide water to customers and treat wastewater.

So, one of the things that has really helped us is to get this control building elevated up off the ground. It's also a 130 mile per hour hurricane proof wind building, which will help us since we've had numerous storms over the last 10 years. It's a full-blown water laboratory where we run analysis on the water every 4 hours or more if needed. It will provide a place for our operators to stay during hurricane events or emergencies. A, it keeps us out of the water and B, hopefully it will stay together in a hurricane. This is elevated roughly four feet off the ground. So, we'll have that protection. We'll stay dry. It also provides a place for the SCADA and a computer to be housed up safe out of the weather. SCADA is supervisor control system. It allows us to turn pumps and motors on and off. It lets us look at levels in the tanks and so on.

Texas Water Development Board actually had some hardening infrastructure programs out there and some funds available. So, the best thing we thought to do is get it up off the ground. And a foot is not going to work, two feet is not going to work. So, it's up, you know, close to almost four feet up. And so, it's a lot of dirt, a lot of slab, it's costly, but with the water development board's help, we were able to do so. And not only that but put together an effective building that can hopefully withstand 130 mile per hour winds.

We’ve learned a lot. I'd say we've had numerous storms. Kudos go out to our hardworking employees in this very, very difficult times. Customer are stressed out, whether they're being rescued or not, and people are scared, and operators are tired. We work long, hard hours. We don't get to see our families much. But I mean, that's our job. That's what we do.

This article is posted in Water Planning / Financial Assistance / Technology / Water Supply .