Residents still recovering six months after Irving water tower flood

- Six months after two million gallons of water poured out of an Irving water tower, destroying people’s homes, vehicles and belongings, residents feel the city has left them high and dry.

One woman, Lecreta Jones, said she and her daughter even became homeless for more than a month after the flood.

Jones and her daughter were home the evening of June 1st when she heard a loud popping sound from outside her home at the Newport Apartments in Irving.

“I was outside on the porch and my daughter was in the house,” Jones said.

Suddenly, water started rushing onto Jones’ porch and into her first floor apartment unit. She rushed to help her adult daughter who is disabled.

“My baby was standing here just shocked and I said, ‘Pooh, come on, we got to get you out,’” Jones said, “We opened the door. We couldn’t…we couldn’t get her out.

We had to tie a rope on the door to leave the door open, so the water won’t push up, and when we got her out, when we opened the door, all the water went out.”

Jones said a group of residents huddled on an exterior staircase that night to wait for the waters to recede.

“It was twenty of us stuck up on these steps and the water was here,” Lecreta said. “The water came this far up into these stairs.”

ORIGINAL STORY: Irving apartment complex flooded after water main break

Public records obtained by FOX 4 show the Finley Water Tower had been drained and offline for six months for rehabilitative work and a technology upgrade.

On June 1st, the tower was being refilled to be put back in service when an underground water main burst.

A work order created after the flood details a timeline of the catastrophe.

  • “Tower hit fill tube inside water tower bowl at 7:50pm. Isolated valve in vault…”
  • “Called…to shut off pumps”
  • “At 8:30pm, the 24” cast iron pipe between the vault and fill tube, busted.”
  • “Tower drained two million gallons.”

Records also show, the water main that broke was installed in 1961 when the water tower was built.

Because the pipe burst between the tower and an emergency shut-off valve, the flow of water could not be stopped. All two million gallons flowed out of the ground and into the apartments and vehicles parked nearby.

After the flood, the city instructed residents on how to file claims. New records obtained by FOX 4 reveal that 15 claims totaling more than $164,000 were ultimately filed with the city.

Then, one week later on June 8th, Irving’s third-party risk management company Tri-Star, told the city it was protected from the claims and did not have to pay out any money to residents.

RELATED STORY: City won't pay for damages after water main break floods Irving apartments

Public policy attorney Marcos Ronquillo is not involved in the case, but explained to FOX 4 that the legislature created immunity for municipalities because they are engaged in core governmental functions.

“To the extent that [the city] is performing a core governmental function, that municipality is immune under the concept of governmental immunity,” Ronquillo said. “That service is fraught with mine fields and potential for liability, so in order for a government to function and not become bankrupt, they have to be immune from being sued for performance of a core governmental function that serves the public good.”

FOX 4 had a lot more questions for the City of Irving about how this could have happened, but a city spokesperson declined multiple interview requests and would not answer any questions by e-mail.

The city cited “possible litigation” as the reason for its silence.

With help from non-profits and church groups, the city did arrange short hotel stays after the flood and helped residents get some donated furniture.

Jones said the assistance was short-lived however, and she and her daughter soon became homeless.

“That hurt my feelings,” she said. “Me and my baby, we didn't have nowhere to stay. We were homeless for a whole month and a half."

A doctor placed Jones on anti-depression medications the day of the flood. The apartment complex did renovate her apartment to make it like new again, but Jones said she still struggles emotionally and is still on the medication six months later.

Jones now rents a television and a sofa, which cost $245 dollars a month.

“I’m still depressed, because I’m fighting this and trying to get my house like I want it,” Jones said. “I had to go out and rent furniture and stuff, I shouldn’t have to do that when I had furniture in my house already paid off.”

Jones filed a small claims suit in J.P. court against the city and said she is not willing to let what she had be washed away without a fight.

CONTINUING COVERAGE

Irving apartment complex flooded after water main break

City won't pay for damages after water main break floods Irving apartments

RELATED DOCUMENTS

TriStar Letter (June 8, 2016) by Vicki Chen on Scribd

 

 

City of Irving Letter June 9, 2016 by Vicki Chen on Scribd

 

 

Irving Water Tower Timeline by Vicki Chen on Scribd

 

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