The long wait is almost over. After almost a decade of planning, the Orangefield Water Supply Corp. expects the new vacuum sewer system plant, along with Phase 1 and Phase 3 to be completed in about 18 months.

“It takes people working together to bring a project like this to fruition,” said Francisco “Paco” Valentin Jr. at  Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremonies for the new system. Valentin is the United States Department of Agriculture/Rural Utilities Service state director, which is the department that oversees rural areas. 

The need for sewer was seen immediately after the water system went online in 2000. After watching films and checking out systems in the Port O’Conner area, the board decided on a vacuum system.

“We did not want a grinder of gravitational system,” said Mary Nixon, one of the original board members.

 In 2004, a participation drive yielded over 1,000 possible customers. The need was clear.

Kent Hannegan, water board president said, “When are we gonna get the sewer?” was a question he frequently was asked. “This is a threshold we’re passing,” Hannegan said. “This is one of the ways we’re gonna grow.” Community sewer is expected to attract new businesses and residents. One of the fastest growing areas will be some of the first to go online.

According to Jon Mott, assistant general manager of the water district, Phase 1 is the immediate Orangefield area, Phase 3 is down Farm Road 1442 south of Farm Road 105 covering the southern part of Oak Manor and all the Bridgefield additions.

Grants from the USDA/RUS funded 60 percent of the project, while the other 40 percent is through low interest loans. Valentin said US Rep. Kevin Brady was responsible for getting additional funds through the Disaster Relief Project.

Funding has begun for Phases 2 and 4 said Mott, who has worked for water district for two years.. Phase 2 covers the area to the east of the district, including Texas 62 over to Tulane Road in the McLewis Community. Phase 4 will include the Oilla community and the northern part of the district.   

Hurricane Rita was a blessing to Orangefield Water Supply.

Because of the extensive damage done to the area, grant money became available to help fund the project.

It took more than just money, environmental concerns had to be addressed, land was purchased for the plant and right of ways had to be obtained.

The main postponement has been environmental issues. According to Hannegan the permit was applied for in 2007, but the permit was just granted in March 2008.

“With the hard work and dedication of the board to this project… they will get a ‘state of the art’ vacuum system,” said Project Engineer George E. Lazaro. He claimed it will address potential health issues, and improve the water quality of Cow Bayou.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.