Communities in crisis: Daisetta and Hull still without water after well pump fails

A portion of the water pump that failed can be seen lying on the ground behind this pumping station at Hull Fresh Water Supply. The pump was in operation for 65 years before it failed last week.

The communities of Daisetta and Hull have been without potable water since last Thursday when a 65-year-old water pump failed. The water well is the single source of drinking water for roughly 700 homes, impacting an estimated 2,000 Liberty County residents.

Residents who can are buying water in neighboring towns and transporting it to their friends, loved ones and neighbors. Earlier this week, the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management delivered four pallets of water that was donated by Walmart and Brookshire Brothers stores in Liberty. The four pallets contain 200 cases of water. When divided among residents, this equates to less than a case per home.

Adding insult to injury is that some local residents have contracted a stomach bug that makes access to water and a working toilet critical. Cindy Burchfield, who runs the office for Hull Fresh Water Supply and is a Daisetta City Council member, says her grandchild is among those sick with a virus at this inopportune time.

This sign is hanging on the exterior of the Hull Fresh Water Supply office on Old FM 834 in Hull.

“We have a 51.4 percent low-to-moderate income population in this area. A lot of residents don’t have the ability to go to the store to buy water. Some of those people don’t even own a car. They are stuck,” Burchfield said.

With the area already experiencing a drought and very little rain in the forecast over the next few days, Burchfield said the situation long ago reached a crisis level.

“The thing is, at the state level at the Texas Department of Emergency Management, this is viewed and classified as a repair. That doesn’t adequately describe what is going on here,” she said.

Water pump repaired

Over the weekend, the water pump at the Hull Fresh Water Supply well station on CR 2438 was repaired. Fortunately, the City of Daisetta had a water pump that had been purchased years earlier when an effort was being made to salvage its own wells, which were later scrapped when salt water continued to permeate the fresh water supply, rendering the wells unusable for human consumption.

Much of the City of Daisetta sits on a salt dome, part of which collapsed in 2008, creating a large pond off of FM 834 across from Hull-Daisetta ISD. The presence of the salt dome makes it impossible for Daisetta to drill for its own water. Neighboring Hull is the next best place for water and the two neighboring communities have shared their resources for years.

The failed pump was put in operation around 65 years ago and has provided water without major problems since that time. Last week, when it failed, it failed catastrophically, shearing off the bottom piece of the pump and sending it to the bottom of the well. A well company was hired to attempt to fish the pump piece from the hole but was unsuccessful.

“We attempted to fish it out but were unable to retrieve it. They actually were able to move it to the side and out of the stream. It’s a non-corrosive pump so it is made for sitting in the water, so it won’t cause any problems being down there in the well,” Burchfield said. “The City of Daisetta luckily had a replacement pump sitting on a shelf in their warehouse. It was miraculous. It’s a pump the city had purchased when we thought our well could be repaired. We just had this $10,000 part just sitting there.”

This is a portion of the broken water pump.

With the new pump in place, the next step was to super-chlorinate the water to prevent bacteria. That process takes hours to complete. Once the chlorination process is finished, the next step is to flush out all of that water and then collect a water sample for testing with a lab approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

The water district had hoped for good results from the first round of testing but were disappointed when they were contacted Tuesday morning and told that the water sample did not meet TCEQ’s requirements, so the whole process of chlorination and testing had to begin again. By noon Tuesday, the water system had been drained and they were beginning the chlorination process again.

Burchfield says they are hoping to have a positive answer from TCEQ by Wednesday or Thursday, and to have some level of water restored to residents by Thursday evening or Friday. However, everything depends on the outcome of the tests.

In the meantime, she is reaching out to county, state and federal leaders for assistance. When Bluebonnet News stopped by the office Tuesday morning, Burchfield was planning to contact the Texas Municipal League for assistance in getting water trucked into the communities using tanker trucks.

Chancy Bailey, also a Daisetta City Council member, told Bluebonnet News she was working to get more cases of water delivered.

“Our company truck can only haul 60 cases of water at a time. Walmart ran out of water yesterday and Brookshire Brothers had only two pallets left yesterday when I checked,” she said.

Bailey said her family is surviving by using water from their pool. While it’s not the best source of fresh water, she feels lucky to have it as she can at least flush toilets. Burchfield says she travels to her son’s house in Liberty for showers.

All of Hull-Daisetta ISD’s campuses have been closed through Friday. Local restaurants and stores are unable to operate fully. Carbonated soda and coffee machines at these places require running water.

“The restaurant in Daisetta is bringing in food but they aren’t able to actually serve anything but plate lunches,” Bailey said.

Planning for the future

Burchfield said the City of Daisetta plans to drill a new well in the Hull area as soon as possible. However, the project is on hold due to funding.

“We applied for funding for the development of our water well in March 2021, and we are still waiting,” she said.

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