This article originally appeared in the Friday July 5, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
The Agua Special Utility District will pay nearly $240,000 for an independent inspection of the Palmview sewer system.
The utility board voted June 27 to pay Southern Trenchless Solutions to inspect the sewer system with cameras, scouring roughly 30 miles of pipes for any problems.
L&G Construction of Mercedes and OG Construction of Edinburg started building the Palmview sewer system in 2017. Problems with groundwater plagued both contractors, which significantly delayed the project.
The utility district hired S&B Infrastructure to supervise the work. With the project nearing completion, however, the utility board wanted a third party to inspect the sewer system.
Saenz said he asked Southern Trenchless, a La Feria-based company headed by CEO Ramon Closner, for a demonstration.
Southern Trenchless Vice President Mario Salazar met with the utility board June 27 to present the results.
Southern Trenchless found a shovel at the bottom of a manhole located near the H-E-B in Palmview, Salazar said.
If the shovel had been sucked into the pipe, Salazar said the cost of removing the obstruction could range from $25,000 to $100,000.
The company also found a 6- to 7-inch high pile of rocks in a 10-inch pipe near the bottom of a manhole near Abram Road.
Salazar said rags would cling to the pile of rocks, which would eventually clog the pipe.
“Eddie, from your experience, how did that happen?” asked utility board Director Lloyd Loya, who represents Peñitas. “How did we get that much caliche down there?”
Based on the size of the rock pile and the location, Saenz speculated the caliche had been deliberately dumped down the manhole.
“My only option is that if this is caliche and it’s right on the manhole — if they were cleaning around the manhole, they opened up the manhole and they threw the caliche in there so they wouldn’t haul it away,” Saenz said. “I don’t see any other way caliche would be in a pipe for whatever reason.”
Other problems identified by Southern Trenchless included an improperly cut sewer main, manholes with poorly constructed seals and faulty seams, and a manhole that wasn’t aligned with the structure beneath.
Impressed by the presentation, the utility board approved a $239,691.55 proposal from Southern Trenchless to inspect the sewer system. The inspection will take approximately three or four months.
“At this point, with everything that we’ve seen, I don’t think anyone here would have an objection with this item,” Loya said, adding that he blamed OG Construction, which the Texas Water Development Board forced the utility district to contract with, for the problems. “I guess to quote Randy Travis: ‘I told you so.’”