'Arctic Titanic' general water restoration complete at Bliss, housing repairs continue
February 16, 2011
Following arctic temperatures which wreaked havoc on thousands of homes in greater El Paso, eight days of around-the-clock relief and repair efforts culminated with the close of water distribution and restoration missions across Fort Bliss' 15 Balfour Beatty Communities neighborhoods Feb. 14.
According to Col. Joseph Simonelli Jr., Fort Bliss' garrison commander, thanks to the work of many military and civilian organizations across post, though some re-ruptures are occurring and are being addressed as they happen, water to all affected homes has been restored.
While water restoration to affected homes was the immediate priority to remedy health and wellness issues, teams from BBC and Belfor Restoration, an emergency home repair and relief outfit hired by BBC to partner in the ongoing effort, continue the repair phase of the operation.
"Initial water restoration is at 100 percent," said Tony Fowler, Belfor's project manager in the Fort Bliss relief effort. "We've had some issues with re-ruptures as we get the system back online and we're addressing that on a 'hotspot' basis and will continue to do so over the coming weeks."
Fowler added that while every inhabitable home at Fort Bliss is plugged back into the water network, that does not mean customers shouldn't expect temporary outages as the repair push continues.
"We're going to be opening and closing water systems as we replace ground valves (which could affect multiple homes on a temporary basis,)" said Fowler. "We're trying to work around the needs of families during peak water usage times."
Fowler said the new components that will be installed will lessen the probability of utility aftermaths similar to those Army families saw after Feb. 2 and 3's inclement weather.
With a real-time information exchange between Belfor, BBC and Fort Bliss leadership, repair-need data for all Army families with home repair issues will be completely collected as of the morning of Feb. 16.
"We continue to quantify repair jobs and will create a work schedule based on damage severity," said Fowler.
He added that while severity levels are of course dictated from house-to-house, Belfor priorities will also be based on the levels of severities from neighborhood-to-neighborhood. While there may be homes in one neighborhood that have individual damages which are more severe than another in a different neighborhood, it will be the neighborhoods that have the most overall damages which will be tended to first. This way, the overall time Belfor spends at Fort Bliss will be reduced with the consolidation, and therefore will get Fort Bliss as an entire community completely back online (water and repairs) more quickly.
Simonelli said while he's seen a full array of damage to homes at Bliss over the last 12 days, he's moved by the connection he's seen between Army families and the places they live.
"There are some homes that have had things like ceiling collapses, but the owners want to stay there (rather than being relocated elsewhere in the BBC community) because they have taken personal ownership of that home," he said. "Those are the types of homes we have a priority to fix. The rest are minor repairs and will get taken care of successively."
The garrison commander said because the strong bonds which exist across this post, he expects to see the type of patience he's seen among Fort Bliss's military housing community continue as repair efforts move forward.
"There were 594 homes that had something happen to them," said Simonelli. "I ask that everyone remain patient and understanding as BBC goes through all of the repairs they have to do and we get ourselves back in order."