Computer glitch leads to boil water notice

Aug. 25—A glitch in a computer system responsible for evaluating water levels and water pressure has resulted in a boil water notice for 20,000 to 25,000 North Odessans that will likely last until about midnight Thursday.

Odessa Public Works Director Tom Kerr said that a system called Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition is responsible for measuring various data points at the city's elevated tanks and pump stations and transmitting the information back to the city's main water plant on 42nd Street.

On Wednesday night, increased usage caused water levels to drop, but because of the glitch operators were unaware of it and did not increase the pumpage to address the routine drop, Kerr said.

"Complaint calls told us something was amiss so we began to evaluate the system," Kerr said.

The calls began around 9 p.m. and the issue was rectified by 10 p.m., but because the water pressure had dropped below 20 pound-force per square inch, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality required the city to impose a boil water notice, he said.

As required, city employees began testing the water for harmful bacteria Thursday morning and if no harmful bacteria are detected, Kerr said he expects the boil water notice to be lifted around 9 a.m. Friday.

It's unclear why the SCADA system failed, he said.

"We're still diagnosing some of the issues," Kerr said. "There are quite a few different types of issues that could be involved."

On a positive note, however, the system will be updated as part of the upgrades being made to the city's water treatment plant, Kerr said.

The Odessa City Council voted in August 2021 to issue $95 million in certificates of obligation to fund the project.

This is the second large-scale boil water notice to be issued since June.

On June 13, a 24-inch waterline that was more than 60-years-old broke on 42nd and San Jacinto streets. Because of a faulty valve, city workers were unable to shut off the line near the break and instead had to shut off water for the entire city for more than 48 hours.

Ector County residents had to boil their water until June 18 while repairs were made and tests were run to ensure the water was safe to drink. Many businesses, especially restaurants, were forced to close their doors in the meantime.

The break cost the City of Odessa nearly $607,000, with the vast majority of the expense going toward equipment costs.