Palestine faces water woes following storm

Pennylynn Webb, Palestine Herald-Press, Texas
·6 min read

Feb. 23—Public water issues continue to plague the city of Palestine and the surrounding area.

Until this situation is completely alleviated, citizens will have to boil water for drinking.

Initially, officials thought the problem was twofold, the gauges that show how much water is stored in the city tanks froze up, making it seem there was more water available than there actually was, and the feeder lines for the chemicals that treat the incoming water, stored inside the treatment plant, also froze.

Once the lines thawed, and the plant was operational, city water crews realized there was a power outage to the system that signals the river to send water to Palestine.

Crews were able to restore emergency power until ONCOR could get the power fully restored.

By Friday, the water plants were fully operational, however pressure remained low.

Servicing consumer water while trying to get the city water tanks to full capacity remained an issue over the weekend, with the city issuing a Code Red to alert citizens of a need to conserve water.

By Monday, Feb. 22, the water situation was slowly improving. More homes were getting water, but the city administration continued to request that everyone be conservative with water usage due to the need for the water towers to fill in order for pressure to increase. Until then, water pressure will remain low.

By Monday morning, the pressure was increasing to the water towers located at Willow Creek and Sycamore.

The water tower located at North Jackson was starting to fill, with increasing pressure sending water to the area. And the ground storage at both locations had water.

On Monday, crews found a leak at a water main at Martin Luther King and the Loop. They are still assessing the situation and will update the community as soon as they know more.

For those that are getting water, you are asked to use the minimum amount needed to run your household.

Mayor Steve Presley said it has been all hands on deck, with city crews, employees and our police officers out looking for leaks and pitching in wherever they were needed, some even sleeping at the water plant to ensure operations continue to improve.

Presley and city officials thanked residents for their patience and under- standing and assured them crews are working hard to make sure everyone has water as soon as possible.

County Judge Robert Johnston filed a disaster declaration for Anderson County Monday, Feb. 15.

The Anderson County Commissioners took to the roads Tuesday, Feb. 16 with graders clearing snow and ice off of both rural roads and state highways. Anderson County Road crews had seven graders working with TxDOT's two.

"Your commissioners were out there working for you, and for everyone in the state all week," Johnston said. "To try to get roads cleared so we could get some water, food and fuel here."

With a shortage of water in the community, Johnston has been working to find solutions while ensuring 172 inmates in the county jail are provided for.

One of the biggest issues has been providing water for PalestineRegional Medical Center. Johnston worked with local fire departments to provide water for operational use like flushing toilets and providing bottled water for patients.

County schools fall under the umbrella of people Johnston is working to help as well.

According to Larissa Loveless, Director of Public Relations, Palestine Independent School District has procured its own bottled water for its students and faculty.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday afternoon, Feb. 22 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved an additional 31 Texas counties, including Anderson County, to be added to the President's Major Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance.

Counties included in this approval are Anderson, Austin, Bosque, Bowie, Burnet, Cherokee, Colorado, Erath, Fannin, Freestone, Gonzales, Grayson, Gregg, Harrison, Hill, Houston, Hunt, Jackson, Jim Wells, Jones, Limestone, Lubbock, Medina, Milam, Navarro, Rusk, Taylor, Tom Green, Val Verde, Washington, Wood.

The governor originally requested Individual Assistance for all 254 Texas counties Feb. 13. President Joe Biden approved Texas' request for a Major Disaster Declaration Feb. 20, granting approval for Individual Assistance in 77 counties and for Public Assistance, Emergency Protective Measures Only, in all 254 counties.

Water supply problems are a statewide issue and both the city and county are coming up shorthanded in their efforts to provide bottled water to the community. They have reached out to our Texas and U.S. representatives for help.

"I urged Gov. Abbott to deploy any and all resources needed in Anderson County and also sent a separate formal ask for assistance in Palestine after water issues were not quickly resolved," said Congressman Lance Gooden (R-TX). "We are now working together to get the White House to recognize the severity of this situation and include Anderson County in their disaster declaration."

While the White House announced Saturday, Feb. 20 the president had declared a major disaster in Texas, he has asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to address the suffering.

The declaration was originally for only 77 of the 245 counties in the state and did not include Anderson County, one of the hardest hit areas during the snow storm on Sunday, Feb. 15 and the ice storm Wednesday, Feb. 17.

Rep. Cody Harris (R- Palestine) diligently worked with other state leaders to get some kind of assistance for the city of Palestine and residents of Anderson County.

"For some reason they excluded us," Harris said. "The Texas Department of Emergency Management has sent bottled water and MRE's but they don't have the funds to help individuals like FEMA does.

Harris also sent a letter to President Joe Biden.

"Severe weather has affected more than 100 million freezing Texans this past week with power outages, no running water and mass flooding to their homes and businesses," Harris said. "As the State Representative for Anderson, Navarro, Hill and Freestone Counties, I have seen first hand the sustained losses my constituents have suffered and their dire need for relief as a result of this subfreezing weather. While I appreciate the relief from the federal government responding to impacts of the overwhelming winter weather across our state, your disaster declaration does not provide crucial individual assistance for communities in my district, or even come close to providing assistance across the rural parts of Texas."

Harris requested Biden extend the disaster declaration for individual assistance to all 254 counties across our great state in order for Texans to receive their relief they need to begin repairing their homes and address the property damage that was affected from the winter storms.