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Nueces County commissioners set to receive a briefing on $2.1 million project

The Nueces County Courthouse
Posted at 7:01 PM, Dec 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-14 19:32:39-05

County Commissioners not only got an update on some of the issues raised with the new boiler system at the Nueces County courthouse on Wednesday, but also heard what engineers are doing to fix some the problems.

The big takeaway from today was all the companies involved: Govind, Wheaton, ABM and L-A-N. They came together with a unified message to the commissioners that issues have been or will be fixed by the deadline given to them by the state. They are also fixing some of the water quality problems KRIS previously reported.

"The water quality system has been re-activated by ABM, we have asked for water testing samples to be delivered, so that is an ongoing activity for ABM to have water samples taken, delivered and verified," said JP Grom, Vice President for LAN.

They also agreed that the boilers were not the exact ones that were supposed to be ordered, but they disagreed that it was a big problem. The boilers have been changed once to reduce the amount of maximum pressure that can be put out. One more modification is needed to reduce this pressure before state inspectors will sign off. The project manager tells KRIS 6 these issues exist only because these specific boilers were installed.

"I think any project like this has a lot of complexities, so some of the things that we are working through now are a result of that boiler order, but there are a thousand other things in any one of these projects that are normal course of business," said Grom.

It's unknown if the cost of this mistake will be passed along to the taxpayer or absorbed by ABM, the company that ordered the boilers, but we will be sure to keep you updated. A month ago 6 Investigates requested documents from the county related to this boiler system. The county requested some documents be withheld and the remaining documents have not yet been made available for inspection. As soon as we have reviewed those documents, we will update you.

ORIGIONAL STORY:

Nueces County Commissioners Court is scheduled to meet with engineers in charge of the new boiler system at the County Courthouse and jail.

KRIS 6 News recently reported the boilers have come under scrutiny for potentially becoming dangerous and could be red-tagged by the state for removal if changes are not made.

6 Investigates first found out about this problem through leaked engineering reports, and to make sense of what's going wrong, we brought those reports to an engineering professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The Nueces County Courthouse boilers, located in a building with restricted access, are a $2.1 million investment that sought to replace an aging system with new ones.

However, it turns out the boilers the county got weren't the ones the engineer asked for, and tags on the boiler were changed at the order of, ABM, the company hired for the project.

"To me, it was just the wrong boiler that was ordered, that's why it came with that tag, with that information, because that tag pertained to that certain boiler," Pct. 1 County Commissioner Roberto Hernandez said during a previous commissioners court meeting.

The new boilers have an adjusted rating of 30 pounds per square inch inside the boiler system, but the building's heat exchangers and piping are rated for 15 psi.

A change needed to be made, and thus ABM downgraded it.

Lea-Der Chen, associate dean of the college of engineering at TAMU-CC took a look at some of the reports about the boilers, and is troubled by what he saw, especially the quality of the water.

Chen talked about the water quality samples taken in October, showing some pretty disturbing measurements, like the high amounts of iron, increased PH and hardness levels, and TDS, or total dissolved solids.

"I don't know exactly what it would taste like, but I would not boil this water to get a cup of tea, right? That's totally out, especially the smell if you shower with it," he said.

The last number should be kept between 700 and 3,500 parts per million. However, the readings from boiler number 2 are 11,440.

"Those deposits may adhere to the pipe, so it leads to corrosion, and when you have those deposits, it may also increase pressure, so the delivery may not work, and then you may damage the system," Chen said.

The system, with aging pipes that may not be able to handle increased psi, not only serves the entire Nueces County courthouse, including the commissioner's court, but also the nearly 1,200 inmates at the jail.

Chen tells 6 Investigates that while some damage could have already been done, there are easy fixes for some of the water problems, like following procedures, fixing water quality with filters and water softener, and basic care for the boilers.

However, that does not address the state's problem with the boilers, as we are told the deadline to fix crucial issues with the boilers is coming up in about a month.

It's something commissioners will be speaking about in court on Wednesday, and 6 Investigates will be there to cover the story.


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