How water towers are inspected in South Texas

Defenders sift through dozens of inspections provided by SAWS


SAN ANTONIO – In February, residents in Crystal City turned on their faucets only to find black water pouring out. It was the result of the draining of a water tower and sediment that was left behind.

It was an incident that came on the heels of Flint, Michigan's water crisis. Now, more than ever, clean water is demanded by the public.

Ron Perrin Water Technologies is a company that inspects and cleans water towers across Texas for municipalities. It provided KSAT with footage from inside a tank during an inspection. A dead bird could be seen along with other glaring issues like rust.

While the company would not disclose the location of the tank, the company made it clear that the tank was not anywhere in South Texas.

"This is the water you drink. This is the water that you give your family, to your kids, to your pets," said Edward "Doc" Davis, a diver for Ron Perrin Water Technologies.

Recently, Davis inspected a water tower in the city of Live Oak.

"We send a diver in and he will clean every square inch of it until it is nothing but tank; tank and water, that's it," said Davis, describing the process.

After a thorough inspection, the tower was rated "clean" and received a high grade, according to Davis. Live Oak maintains its towers every one to two years. If the tanks need cleaning, it is often because of a small layer of sediment in the bottom.

"Our water all comes from the Edwards Aquifer and it has some sediment that comes with it," said Scott Wayman, city manager of Live Oak.

Sediment, if left for long periods, can harbor bacteria. It is something the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, looks for. The center requires annual self-inspections of all Texas towers.

In the case of Crystal City, the water tower was found to have three separate issues, according to the TCEQ, which later did its own inspection.

View Water Tanks & Towers, Bexar Co. in a full screen map

As for San Antonio, the Defenders sifted through dozens of inspections provided by San Antonio Water System.

"We have no major violations," SAWS Chief Operating Officer Steve Clouse said. "We did have some tanks when we got the BexarMet facility that had some major violations. We have since taken those tanks out of service."

Other than a few minor issues, records show all of SAWS's 132 tanks were in relatively good shape. SAWS cleans its tanks every five years.

"If there's an eighth of an inch of sand on the bottom of that tank, we will schedule that and get it cleaned," Clouse said. "We spend about $2.5 million a year making sure that those tanks are clean and in good shape overall."

Other cities around the area were also checked, including Alamo Heights and Converse, all of which came back with good reports.

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