Mountain City water system fails

The water system in Mountain City two weeks ago failed due to a faulty pressure tank.

Residents received notice that the city had activated an emergency backup connection with Hays CISD that has existed for over 20 years.

As of Friday, Mountain City had been on the Hays CISD backup for 12 days.

This was the first time the secondary system has been used except for tests.

Mayor Phillip Taylor said the pressure tank was installed in the 1970s and was probably due for a replacement anyway. The pressure tank manages water pressure as it comes out of the well pump.

Due to the pressure tank failure, Taylor said, “We lost the ability to maintain consistent pressure throughout the system.”

Residents were instructed to conserve water while the city worked to fix the water system. Some residents had concerns about how this would affect their water rates. However, Taylor said the city will eat the cost of any increase in water rates which are contingent on what Hays CISD pays for water usage.

Taylor said he expects there to be at least a slight increase in the water rate because rates in Mountain City are relatively low compared to bigger water systems.

However, at a city council meeting on June 28, council added a pass-through fee to the city’s ordinance, meaning residents will have to pay any extra rates if the city were to ever use the Hays CISD connection again.

At a city council meeting on June 28, city officials discussed replacing the faulty pressure tank with a new one, although it will take time for the new tank to be built and installed.

In the meantime, a bypass switch was installed on June 29 which will act as a temporary fix. Taylor said the bypass switch cost about $5,000 and will function by going around the pressure tank to maintain pressure as water is pumped out of the well to a holding tank, but this also means the well will be running 24 hours.

This will be a 30 percent increase of the amount of time the pump would normally run, and may increase electricity usage, which the city will also pay for as normal operating costs of the well.

The bypass valve will be used until the new pressure tank is built and installed which could take up to three to four months. Taylor estimates the total cost of the project to be around $20,000 to $25,000.

“It’s not a cheap fix, but fortunately we have the reserves to take care of it,” Taylor said. Taylor also says residents should not expect to see a difference in water quality or water pressure.

Mountain City only recently obtained ownership of the water system less than a year ago from Mountain City Oaks Water, a privately owned utility company.

“We’re learning as we’re going and doing a lot of upgrades to the system that we didn’t really know we needed,” Taylor said.

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