Old plant couldn’t take the cold

SAN BENITO — Cold temperatures caused a leak that led to the shutdown of the city’s old water plant last week.

Last night, consultant Lou Portillo told city commissioners “freezing” temperatures created condensation which froze water in the plant’s air line, creating a leak that dropped the system’s water pressure on Jan. 8.

The drop in water pressure led the city to issue an advisory requesting residents boil water before drinking, said Portillo, of San Antonio-based Lou Portillo and Associates.

“Was the water quality good? Yes. Nothing happened to our water quality,” Portillo told commissioners in a review of circumstances behind the water plant’s shutdown.

Portillo recommended the city install heaters and insulation to protect equipment in the event of cold temperatures.

“It’s rare we had a freeze. We got caught off guard,” Portillo said. “Next time we have a freeze, we’ll be better prepared.”

Meanwhile, commissioners approved spending $91,812 to rehabilitate three water filters to prevent turbidity, which affects water clarity, from climbing in the system.

“Is this an emergency repair? I really think it is,” Portillo told commissioners. “We need to remember we’re working with technology built in 1927. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It means you have to do maintenance.”

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