National Rural Water Association

2915 S. 13th Street

Duncan, OK 73533

580-252-0629   FAX 580-255-4476

Contact:  Chris Wilson, nrwacw@nrwa.org

September 16, 2008
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TRWA, small utilities keep water running after Hurricane Ike 

 

MAURICEVILLE, Texas – Broken trees and snapped power lines lay over highways and flooded fields. Despite the destruction of Hurricane Ike, the small community of Raywood, Texas still has running water.
            “That’s the one good thing going on, folks have water,” said Tony Fontenot, President of the Raywood Water Service Corporation.
            The small, rural utility lost power around 1 p.m. the night Ike made landfall. The water already pumped into the water tower kept the system up pressure for a few hours, but eventually the water ran out. Then the phone calls started.
            The Raywood office manager, Frankie Espree, called the Texas Rural Water Association and asked for assistance.
            “She did the smart thing,” Fontenot said. “She’s the glue that holds it all together.”
            TRWA had a generator from there staging area in Mauriceville on-site and ready eight hours later.
            “They’re life savers,” said Todd Fontenot, manager of the Raywood utility. “We’re so appreciative of the TRWA.”
            The Raywood staff, like those other rural systems in east Texas, is no stranger to hurricane damage. Hurricane Rita caused similar damage in 2005.
            The small system, serving 500 customers, is small compared the damage often seen in media coverage – Houston, Beaumont, Galveston. Still, the Raywood utility is an integral part of the small community.
            “That’s the one that that holds us together as a community,” Tony Fontenot explained of the utility.
            The utility began when Fontenot’s father and a few other men dug the first well for the system.
            “They hammered the pipe into the ground,” he said with a laugh.
            The utility is small in numbers, but it’s the kind of assistance that is TRWA’s specialty.
            “This is our bread and butter,” said Tom Duck, executive director of the Texas Rural Water Association.
            Duck explained that TRWA will rotate generators on systems like Raywood, allowing several systems to fill their water towers and start work on other issues. Ike’s higher winds uprooted trees and blew over buildings, potentially breaking water lines or causing leaks. Portable generators will be the only source of power for some systems because of extensive damage to the power gird. It may take utility crews three weeks or more to restore power to the hardest-hit areas.
The plan is designed to allow small utilities, which would be overlooked by relief efforts focused on large population centers, an opportunity to provide service to their communities.
            “Raywood water is very dear to me,” Todd Fontenot concluded.

 

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