City of Orange administrators, residents respond to water concerns

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, September 13, 2023

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The Environmental Protection Agency requires public water systems furnish the public with annual water quality reports, or Consumer Confidence Reports.

The City of Orange’s report was delivered to residents by postal mail in July and is also available online the TCEQ website and on the City of Orange website.

According to the city-generated report and the EPA, findings of contaminants in public water systems aren’t necessarily a cause for concern.

Contaminants may be naturally occurring, a byproduct of industrial waste or they can be evidence of routine maintenance in the form of disinfectants.

The 2022 Consumer Confidence Report for Orange found contaminants, with no violations. According to the city, this means the system delivered safe potable water despite variations in the taste and/or color of the water.

The report documents the 2021 finding of copper and lead, both within safe levels and explained as likely originating from erosion of natural deposits.

Beginning in the fall of 2022, area residents began voicing concerns regarding the water in the city.

Public Works

Orange Public Works Director Adam Jack said the water has been different and back in September/October the city switched over to a chemical that is more cost effective.

“Whenever you change a chemical in the water, it changes what goes on in your piping system, and so as a result we went from four or five dirty water complaints to more than 50 in a month,” Jack said. “That lasted for a few months. It lasted four or five months and it has now come back down to those four or five complaints that we have on a monthly basis.

“What the citizens were seeing was the change in that chemical makeup. Things were flushing out. There was no danger to the citizens. The water was still potable. The water still met all the TCEQ requirements, but it didn’t look nice and people want to see clear water coming out of the faucets. Changing this chemical will help us see clearer water as we’re moving forward.”

According to Jack, disinfectants treat water after collection from the ground, ensuring safe levels as it travels from its source to locations throughout the lift stations service area.

Jack encourages Orange residents who don’t like what the water coming out of their faucets looks like or it smells like to call customer service. City workers can’t fix what they don’t know about.

Changes in chemicals used to disinfect water explain alterations to the odor or color of water while occasional interruptions in water service are needed for necessary updates to piping, some that are over 30 years old, city leaders said.

“The primary lift station within the city, the pump that operates there was installed in the 90s and it pretty much runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Jack said. “From time to time, it just needs to be serviced. We’re at one of those points in time where it stopped working and we have the ability, fortunately thanks to my predecessor, to install some new pumps.”

Local voices

Recent drought conditions and infrastructure concerns in the North End  reinvigorated calls from residents for assistance and reports of water concerns. Some of these were voiced during a meeting of the Orange City Council in late August.

Kevin Wallace addressed the council regarding water issues in Cypress Bayou.

“For about six months or so, we’ve had some very bad water issues,” he said. “Water is very discolored. It’s constant. When you wash your hands, brush your teeth or take a shower, you don’t really see it. But when you fill up a tub [you see it]. Since July, at my house it’s been light yellow at best when you run bathwater.”

Wallace shared photos to illustrate his concerns that were validated by City Councilman  Brad Childs, who explained city councilmembers “are not exempt from the city of Orange water.”

Robbie Wimberly shared he resides in Cypress Grove Subdivision and  his water is also discolored.

“It might be good one day, but you fill up a big tub, and it’s bad,” he said.

After the meeting, Public Works responded to concerns by encouraging citizens to schedule routine maintenance checks of their water heaters.

According to the city, sediment build up in residential water heaters may impact the quality of water. The department again reconfirmed the safety of the water and invited citizens to call anytime with questions, comments or service call requests,

According to public works, from January to May, the water and sewer operations group responded to more than 3,000 customer service requests.

For more information regarding the public water system maintained by the City of Orange, call the public works department at 409-883-1026, TCEQ Region 10 at 409-898-3838 or the Environmental Protection agency’s drinking water hotline at 800-426-0471.

— Written by Shari Hardin