Never again: Denison working to prevent a repeat of February water system failure

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Crews work to repair water line damage in Denison during winter storms in February. The city of Denison is hiring a consultant to assess the electrical systems at some water generation sites to prevent similar failures in the future.

The month of February was unprecedented in many ways for Texoma and the rest of Texas. The record-breaking storms brought with them sub-zero temperatures and snowfall that blanketed the region for nearly a week. 

Those conditions created another first for many residents across the region who spent part of the storm without power of water. Now, the city of Denison is working to prevent part of this from ever happening again.

The City Council approved a nearly $341,000 agreement with Plummer Associates this week to evaluate the electrical systems for remote control and testing technology and standby power generation at some city water facilities.

"As far as our master plan project we are doing for that water plant, we need nee an evaluation of the electrical system due to the snow event we had," Interim City Manager Bobby Atteberry said. "We need to expand SCADA  (supervisory control and data acquisition) at that plant and our sewer plant as well."

During February blizzard, the Texas power grid saw the perfect storm of conditions that risked the loss of the statewide power grid. Throughout the state, the power system saw record-breaking demand combined with unexpected shutdowns at some power-generation sites. This was in addition to some sites that were down for expected maintenance.

In order to maintain the power grid, regulators instated a series of rolling blackouts. While these power losses were not expected to hit major infrastructure, many utilities, including Denison's water generation sites, were impacted. This loss of power led some sites to freeze over due to the extreme conditions.

The study will look into possible ways to maintain power during events such as the February storms. The study will also look at possible implementation of systems that will allow for remote control and evaluation of water conditions and infrastructure, also known as SCADA.

As an example, Atteberry said SCADA systems would have been useful in the recovery from February's storms. In order to bring water infrastructure back online, officials needed to test for chlorination across the city. This could have been done remotely using SCADA monitoring.

The Plummer agreement will include assessments for the Randel Water Plant, Parkdale storage tanks and the city's water treatment plant. 

Prior to February, the Randell plant had never lost power thanks in part to a dual service feed that provided redundant service to the site. However, even this was not enough to stop the storms from disrupting service.

The Parkdale elevated and ground storage tanks also are a strategic priority for the city. The nearby Grayson College tank will be undergoing a replacement that will take it out of service. This will make the Parkdale site the main  water source for  areas near the college and North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field.

The city's pumping station at Lake Texoma is not expected to be a major focus point as the city plans to start construction on a new facility within the next two years. This site will have modernized equipment including redundant power and SCADA controls in place by default.

The agreement will  provide services though the design, configuration, bid and construction phases of the project. At the end, the consultants will provide estimated costs for the project that the city can use for evaluation.