McAllen Showcases Procedures Used to Prevent Water Contamination

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MCALLEN - A Rio Grande Valley water plant official said they work hard to prevent situations similar to Corpus Christi’s current water crisis.

McAllen Public Utility provides water to more than 120,000 customers. The facility’s general manager, Mark Vega, said their mission is to make sure the water that comes out of the tap is always safe to drink.

“We test every single day out in our system, and we test an hourly basis within our own plant system before the water even hits the distribution system,” he said.

The contamination in Corpus Christi was caused by a backflow protector that was either not in place or was not working properly. Vega said these pieces are used to protect water supplies from contamination due to a backflow.

Vega added the state requires any customer who has a possible cross-contamination point to have a backflow preventer. He said commercial businesses that have an automatic sprinkler system like an irrigation system or a pool fall into this requirement.  

The water treatment plant manager said there are more than 10,000 water customers in McAllen who use backflow preventers. He said their operation is crucial to keep water safe.

“When that backflow preventer fails, there’s nothing to prevent that contaminated water to reach the public water mains. And once it reaches the public water mains, then it’s out in the distribution system and that’s very hard to then restrict or mitigate,” he explained.

Vega also said all account holders with a backflow preventer need to test their systems on a yearly basis. Once the certification is complete, it should be submitted to the department so they can log and register the information.

Between monitoring and testing, Vega said clean water is what his teams strive for.

“There’s somebody working at a water plant, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to make sure that the water quality is the highest and safest water possible for the citizens of McAllen,” he said.

Vega added information about water quality needs to also come from customers. He said anyone can report anything unusual about their water by calling their public utility company. 

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