ARANSAS PASS, Texas — It was a missing backflow preventer that is to blame for the water ban in Port Aransas over the weekend.
Crews at Harbor Freight notified the city of the missing part following an inspection as the business prepares to open in a building previously occupied by Beale's department store.
Since 2006, a private inspector hired by Beale's reported to the city that there was a backflow preventer in the building, and the city is now looking into how that is the case.
“All these years, it’s been indicated that everything was okay, that a backflow preventer was in place, and that was not the case," Aransas Pass city manager Gary Edwards said. "The business that’s going in there now, it’s a new business, and they’re the ones who pointed out to us there is no backflow preventer."
The city made the decision to place a water ban after it realized there was a possibility anti-freeze had entered the city’s water supply.
“It was a very stressful time for all the citizens, certainly for staff and everyone else, as we went through that, because we didn’t know what the test results would come back as,” Edwards said.
The city worked closely with the state to make sure the water samples could get tested as quickly as possible, and the state provided a plane to send the results to two testing facilities, one in Stafford and another in Savannah, Ga. The city was given the okay from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Sunday morning that the water was safe.
However, people in Aransas Pass did endure 36 hours without using water to shower, clean, or eat with. The city did provide bottled water for its citizens, but it was an interesting weekend for some.
“Showering with gallons of water, that’s what my weekend was like,” said Aransas Pass resident Sam Hornbuckle, the manager of Aransas Pass restaurant "I Love Noodle" that was forced to close because of the water ban.
“We found out Saturday that we were going to have to close down completely," Hornbuckle said. "We opened up because we got a lot of bottled water, a lot of gallons of water to help cook and wash our hands, and then the health department came in Saturday, as soon as we opened, and told us that we needed to shut down."
With the business closed on Saturday, its workers missed out on a typically busy day of work and tips.
“We lost out on a lot of money as the business," Hornbuckle said. "All our staff missed out on two days of work, but the waitresses also had two days of no tips, so it affected them pretty hard."
Hornbuckle said, thankfully, the restaurant was busy on Sunday when it was allowed to reopen.
Now, the city of Aransas Pass is working to make sure an incident like this will not happen again.
Edwards said city officials are discussing whether or not to perform their own inspections to make sure buildings are up to code, the city is working with TCEQ to train its employees on backflow preventers, and he is working with other city officials on preventing another incident like this one.
“The necessary enforcement ordinance on backflow preventers is not in place," Edwards said. "So, I anticipate taking steps, working with the mayor and council, to make sure such an ordinance is in place."