More than 10 months after a winter storm crippled Killeen and much of the state, local water officials are still trying to comply with a new state law requiring them to plan for weather events extremes like winter storm Uri.
The passage of Senate Bill 3 in June by the Texas Legislature was an omnibus response to the disastrous February freeze that cut electricity and water services to Killeen for weeks. Across the state, the storm killed at least 210 people, but millions were forced to brave the cold without an easy way to heat their homes or boil water amid an avalanche of snow. boil water advisory across Texas.
Senate Bill 3, or SB3, requires water utilities such as the Town of Killeen and its water supplier, Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, to submit a disaster preparedness plan. emergency to ensure the maintenance of the service despite the elements.
Under the new law, public water supply and sanitation systems must submit the location of water distribution maps, water system diagrams, treatment information, system request, its electricity suppliers, electrical diagrams, etc.
According to the Texas Municipal League’s online guidelines for its member cities, the new law also requires that water be provided to residential customers at a minimum of 20 psi during a power outage of 24 hours or more. The league advises cities to visit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Emergency Preparedness Plan webpage, which includes a downloadable template that water utilities can use to comply with the SB3 standard. Water utilities must submit their plans to TCEQ by March 1, 2022, and those plans must be implemented by July 1, 2022.
The Killeen-Fort Hood area water utilities say they have complied with some requirements, but are still working to meet the March deadline under Texas’ new emergency preparedness law.
“In accordance with TXSB3-2021, the City of Killeen Department of Public Works and Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management submitted critical electrical load information on October 29, 2021 to the Texas Utility Commission. , Oncor, to the Bell County Emergency Management Office. , and the Texas Emergency Management Division. The City of Killeen Public Works Department continues to strive to meet the deadlines outlined in TXSB3-2021, ”said Peter Perez, Killeen’s director of emergency management, in an email. “The town of Killeen is currently in the process of evaluating the water supply system and the improvements required by TXSB3-2021. City council was able to provide $ 500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to help. Any additional funding will be discussed once the improvement assessment is complete.
The town of Killeen has put in place an emergency response plan in its winter storm Uri improvement plan and has taken other measures such as’ increasing our four-wheel drive vehicles, the increasing our public and internal communication frequencies and forming partnerships with more community partners to help with hosting services, ”said Perez.
Killeen’s public works department has also “put in place contingency plans to distribute water in accordance with state and federal standards,” in the event of another natural disaster like winter storm Uri, according to Perez.
Following the winter storm in February, Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, or WCID-1, decided to prepare a back-up power generation plan at all of its major water treatment facilities.
WCID-1 has since explored the cost of diesel generators at all of its facilities, digging natural gas lines to power natural gas generators, and a combination of the two, to ensure that water continues to flow in the event of an outage. current. Now, after months of planning, it looks like WCID-1 is getting close to presenting back-up power generation proposals to the WCID-1 board.
“The requests for proposals are being compiled,” WCID-1 CEO Ricky Garrett said in an email. “We are looking for 10 megawatt back-up production, which would feed the full capacity of the Lake Belton water treatment plant. “
The treatment plant supplies the majority of the drinking water used by residents between Killeen and Belton.
Garrett said WCID-1 does not know exactly how many diesel or natural gas generators will be needed or what they will cost, as this “will be determined by the chosen supplier.”
According to previous Herald reports, WCID-1 had in the past avoided the high cost of such back-up power generation, but Garrett is now directing the board towards such an investment.
“This latest storm made me change my mind,” Garrett said in April.
But this investment will not be cheap. Garret told the board in April that such a plan would cost at least $ 8 million.
“The backup generation might come out sooner because we’ll have these proposals,” Garrett told the WCID-1 board at its regular meeting in December. “But I don’t know if $ 8 million will be enough.”
Such a large generator fleet could give the district the ability to sell any excess power not needed in an emergency to the highest bidder when market prices rise like they did in February.
When asked if they could sell into the privatized Texas power market, Garrett hinted that selling any additional power was a real possibility for WCID-1.
“WCID-1 is already participating in some energy incentive programs at times,” Garrett said. “Having back-up production capacity would allow us to save a lot more money. This is something that we will evaluate before we commit.
Leak demand placed on the entire Killeen-Fort Hood area water supply system during another prolonged freeze will require the Lake Belton water treatment plant to have production of Full backup electricity if the water is to continue flowing, Garret said.
“Scheduling backup generation over a 24 hour period is one thing, but four or five days is a much bigger business,” Garrett told the Herald in an email. “Before Uri, a 24-hour outage from a widespread storm was an extreme event, except in coastal areas where hurricane impacts can cripple electrical service for days.
“The other thing Uri revealed is that the water demand will not follow a typical winter use pattern. As a general rule, water consumption in January and February represents about 33% of the consumption observed in July and August. So if one were to plan for back-up production for a one-day outage, it would suffice to plan for 33% of the total plant capacity, “said Garrett.
“In the south, when temperatures drop below 10 degrees and stay below for more than 24 hours, water systems are leaking a lot. Leaks can double or triple the demand for water. Therefore, to prepare for another “Uri” level event, full capacity backup production is required. “
Not making such an investment could cost more in the long run.
The generators would help protect the water flow to the region’s economy during thunderstorms, tornadoes and other natural disasters. Garrett said investing in such generators is essentially like investing in a life insurance plan.
“The availability of clean water is essential for hospitals, nursing homes, daycares and schools, dialysis clinics and for many people with critical home care needs. It’s even more critical during a winter storm when so many other facilities could be affected, such as roads or the power supply, ”Garrett said in his email. “Ensuring this availability should be a cost in doing business. It’s similar to insurance. It would be cheaper NOT to continue with full backup production and there may be years when this is not absolutely necessary. However, if needed, this will allow us to provide as much water as needed to all of our customers during an extreme weather event. “
Water utilities must submit their plans to TCEQ by March 1 and these plans must be implemented by July 1.