San Benito Receives $4M in Water Plant Lawsuit

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SAN BENITO – After years of litigation, the city of San Benito has reached an agreement in its water plant lawsuit.

Evoqua, the company they claim built the inoperable, multi-million Water Plant No. 2, is paying the city back millions of dollars.

That's good news for people living there. Some said they clearly remember the early days of January when the entire city was under a water boil advisory.

"No one was able to drink water," San Benito resident Jose Saucedo said. "We had to boil it. We just went and bought water."

"We shouldn't be having those problems if we have that new (plant). The one that wasn't even two or three years when it stopped," Noemi Huerta added.

The city said freezing temperatures caused a malfunction at the more than 90-year-old Water Plant No. 1. It forced them to purchase water from Harlingen and issue the state-mandated boil advisory. 

San Benito City Manager Manuel De La Rosa is hopeful those days will now be few and far between.

The filtration system at Water Plant No.2, located on Turner Street, failed shortly after operations started. The city was forced to shut it down in 2014 and filed suit.

The two parties recently settled a lawsuit in which the city of San Benito claimed the water plant wasn't operable. The city will be receiving $4 million from Evoqua.  

"Basically, the city is getting what it was promised, what it's owed," De La Rosa said.

The settlement agreement weighs heavily on that issue being resolved.

"They are going to provide 896 membranes, some technical assistance, some training," De La Rosa said. “It imposes some responsibility on the city which means it's a partnership. It's something that could have probably happened the first time."

De La Rosa said the $4 million will be reinvested in the plant to make sure it's producing 6,000,000 gallons of water per day, the 1,000,000 gallon ground storage tank is up to par and to build a pretreatment facility.

Residents are floating the bill for the $17 million for years to come; through their water bills.

Huerta said it's time the water plant infrastructure is put to use.

"We need that new one running, we should use that (new) one and the other one to pick us up," she said.

De La Rosa said the quality of water hasn't been an issue, so residents won't even realize which water plant they're getting it from.

The city manager also said Evoqua is already working with city staff to train them on operating Water Plant No. 2.

The state will have to approve the water plant before it's off and running.


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