Water problems have East Texas students missing class

OVERTON (KYTX) - Some East Texas students have been out of school recently, not because of weather or holidays, but because their cities don't have any water. Cayuga ISD students were out of class Monday because a water valve blew out at their main well, but as CBS 19's Amanda Roberson explained, they aren't the only school district in an area battling water woes.


Cayuga ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick Webb said this is the first time in 15 years the Anderson County district has had to close school for water problems involving the water supply company. But for another East Texas school district, ending class because of water issues is nothing new.

"I think last year we had to twice we had to call school because of water and the year before three times," said Overton ISD Superintendent Alan Umholtz.

Umholtz was ready to jump into action when a water pipe split in two last Wednesday, leaving the city and schools without water. "Ordered port-a-potties and then we made sure we had plenty of bottled water on every campus and also hand sanitizers are on all the teachers desks."

Umholtz added even the students knew the drill. "Came to school without showers, they did have bottles of water and things like that to brush their teeth."

Umholtz has been Overton's Superintendent five years and said old pipes are to blame for so many water problems. "Plumbing in Overton needs to be replaced."

That six-plus foot piece of split pipe has been replaced, recovered, and water was flowing safely back into Overton the next day, but the city said if something like this should happen again, they will again replace that section of the pipe. They said it would cost between $20 and $40 million to redo the whole water infrastructure into the city and the city said they simply don't have that kind of money.

"We do have some old pipes, we do have some problems," Overton City Manager Joel Cantu explained. "But we try to repair them as diligently as possible." 

Cantu said part of that repair is installing PVC pipes, instead of what's been in the ground about 20 years. "We think the earth or the ground shifted and since it's a metal, cast metal pipe, there's no give to them so when the earth or ground shifts sideways the pipe will split." 

While some water problems are unavoidable, Overton ISD wants to avoid ending class for such problems.

If a school district stays in class until 11am, they aren't penalized by the state. If they call any sooner, it's considered a bad weather day and districts only get two of those a year. Overton stayed in class until 11am. Cayuga sent their students home sooner just after 9am.

Those with BCY Water Supply said problems with their water system are rare, but the problem is fixed. Cayuga ISD students are expected to be back in class Tuesday, but there is a boil water notice in effect for the city of Cayuga and other BCY Water cities until further notice.






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