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6 Investigates: City crackdown is a 'step forward' in preventing another water ban

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The city's enforcement has brought 93 percent compliance from businesses found not following the plumbing rules meant to keep the drinking water safe. (KRIS 6 News) The city's enforcement has brought 93 percent compliance from businesses found not following the plumbing rules meant to keep the drinking water safe. (KRIS 6 News)
CORPUS CHRISTI -

It’s been more than a year since a three-day water ban caused a citywide panic and temporarily shut down several businesses.

Yet city leaders are still dealing with the ripple effects of that event.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a $78,000 contract with Brycer LLC to handle what they say are gaps in the city’s compliance reporting system meant to keep the tap water supply safe.

"I think what we've done is a step forward that the city needed to do and hopefully we will avoid anything like that from happening again,” said Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn.

Up until recently, the city’s database for backflow prevention inspections had wrong addresses and ownership information. The outdated information caused many of the city’s delinquent notices to be sent to the wrong person or location.

Instead of the city managing that system – it will now go to Brycer LLC. The decision Tuesday signaled yet another move by city leaders to turn over city compliance to a third party. Last year, the city hired a group of local plumbing companies to do work at 4,400 businesses and homes that are not in compliance with city plumbing codes. So far, the city has 93 percent compliance from about 1,000 businesses, said Gene Delauro, Assistant Director of Development Services.

“We've got 65 or so left to do and we should have those wrapped up in short order,” he said.

Next – the city will go after approximately 3,500 homeowners not following the rules for backflow preventers.

Backflow preventers are a simple plumbing device the city requires to be installed on sprinkler systems among other things hooked up to the city’s water supply.

On Dec. 15th, 2016, many across the city woke up to news that they could no longer use the tap water. City leaders sent out the alert after they became aware of a possible chemical leak at a local asphalt plant. The company Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions regularly used city tap water to dilute chemicals onsite, but city officials said they did not find a backflow preventer in place, which would have prevented a possible contamination. Several days of water tests found no trace of the chemicals in the city water supply, according to city officials.

But the ordeal led to widespread reform of the city’s backflow preventer inspection program. A KRIS 6 Investigation revealed the city did not enforce its own rules, and the city later confirmed more than 4,400 businesses and homes were not in compliance but refused to turn over those records citing concerns that it violated the Homeland Security Act. The Texas Attorney General’s Office agreed, and the names and locations of those not following the rules have been kept private.

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