The Texas Public Works Response Team (PWRT) was deployed to assist local officials in the recovery from the Bastrop County Complex wildfires that began on Sept. 4. The team is a state resource that is coordinated by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), and is deployed to support local response, rapid damage assessment and recovery of critical services and infrastructure after a catastrophic event.
Two TEEX water and wastewater infrastructure experts spent a week in the Bastrop area, conducting assessments of the water and sewer infrastructure damaged by the wildfires. They provided officials with assessments of several hundred water and sewer connections in affected neighborhoods, which were serviced by three water systems in the area. The PWRT Assessment Strike Team of Ken Olson and James Fischer also documented damaged infrastructure with photographs and provided GIS locations to the Bastrop County Emergency Operations Center.
Water system WCID #2, which served the Tahitian Village Subdivision southeast of Bastrop, was the hardest hit, said Tony Alotto, PWRT Coordinator and Associate Director of TEEX’s Infrastructure Training & Safety Institute. The subdivision was heavily damaged, with 231 homes destroyed by fire. Another 255 homes were left without water service, and 140 wastewater services were destroyed, he added. Thirty fire hydrants were out of service as of Friday, Sept. 16, significantly limiting fire suppression capabilities in the subdivision. The assessment team determined that the damage to the subdivision’s water and wastewater systems created health and safety concerns for the residents, and put together a plan and financial analysis for repairs and capping of the systems at homes that had been destroyed.
The assessment report was provided to county officials for use in recovery efforts and FEMA assistance, Olson said. “This assessment is vital to getting the water and wastewater infrastructure restored not only so citizens can return home, but so fire suppression capabilities can be restored, and public health and sanitation issues can be mitigated.”