Plant breakdown forces East Medina water to impose temporary conservation

By Anton Riecher
Despite a 12-hour power outage Dec. 10 at the East Medina County Special Utility District plant in Pearson none of the 5,000 people served went without water, district superintendent Bruce Alexander said.
“What really helped were capital improvements we recently made that included building a new half million gallon storage tank at plant one,” he said.
However, that tank came within a foot of being empty before water could be restored, Alexander said.
As of Dec. 14, operations at plant one and all its wells is completely restored, Alexander said.
Either late Friday or early Saturday a 150-horsepower well motor at plant one failed. Employees arriving at the scene attempted to reset the motor but it suddenly burned out instead, causing a “compounded issue,” Alexander said.
“It just literally blew fire out the side of the motor,” he said. “The surge was so great and so quick that it went through our control circuits and actually took out the electrical service coming from CPS,” Alexander said. “First we had to get CPS out to restore service and, even then, we couldn’t get out controls to work.”
Those controls operated not only the well with the burned-out motor but all the wells on site, effectively shutting down plant one, Alexander said. Fortunately, within 12 hours workers were able to get one well working to replenish the rapidly depleted water in storage.
The district took steps to make customers aware of the need to minimize water use. Besides posting a notice on the district webpage, Alexander activated an emergency communications system to alert customers via text message and email as to the progress being made.
Another capital improvement that came in handy was the district’s drive to update emergency generators at all its water plants. Prior to obtaining federal stimulus money through the county for the project, the district invested more than $200,000 in emergency generators in recent years.
“We put one in a few years ago at plant 1 and it was the system that kept power running during the big snow in 2021,” Alexander said. Enough fuel to operate five days straight is kept on site, he said.
Meanwhile, workers toiled around-the-clock to get plant one back completely back on line. Finding the needed parts for the control system alone became a daunting task, Alexander said.
“I’ve been told we were actually very fortunate to get things working because the controls we use come from California and it’s a 15-day wait to get the parts,” Alexander said. “We were able to scrounge up the parts we needed. I hate to use that phrase – scrounge up – but it is what it is.”
Replacing the destroyed motor cost $32,000 with another $10,000 spent to repair the damaged controls, Alexander said.
“This was a major issue for us but thank goodness we have the resources to cover these types of emergencies,” he said.