CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Plumbers across the Coastal Bend are working to fix damage caused by last month's big freeze.
Two weeks after the winter storm, some 200,000 Texans remain under book water notices and 207 counties are reporting public water systems issues, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Austin Rodriguez is a skilled tradesman for Royal Plumbing Inc. He says during the week of the big freeze, his company received more than 600 calls from people without water.
“Trying to get them at least partial water we had to cap off some lines so that they can have just a kitchen and a bathroom," said Rodriguez, who is a tradesman. "Until you know this kind of slows down and get back and reconnect them fully.”
Rodriguez says one of the biggest challenges is limited resources like CPVC and fittings.
“Tried outsourcing at other suppliers," he said. "If we didn’t have the material, I mean the most we can do is you know cap off whatever lines were broken just to try and get them water."
Allen Law, president of Craft Training Center of Coastal Bend, said plumbers are vital to the economy.
The big freeze underscores that there aren’t enough plumbers. Law said there has been a decrease in student enrollment in plumbing development programs in the last 4 to 5 years.
“Here at Craft Training Center, we do the department of labor apprenticeship where you come to class four years two nights a week in the fall and the spring,” Law said.
CTC has job placement with some of the local plumbing companies, Law said. Many will hire those students when classes start. And with Nueces County growing, Law said most of the work in the area is new construction.
“There's misguided information that people perceive plumbers being of just somebody who does sewer work," Law said. "It's not really that way."
To become a plumber, Law said applicants should have a strong work ethic and desire to do the job. But he said more importantly, the job is rewarding.
“Because they are actually helping a mainstream of life for people having water, having sewer,” Law said.
Rodriguez said working as a plumber provides some challenges.
“It can be difficult sometimes, some of the stuff you get into," he said. "And it's always an adventure."
For more information about the Plumbing Apprenticeship with Craft Center of the Coastal Bend visit their site here.