Texas Works to Recover From Plumbing Crisis

The demand for plumbers remains strong in the wake of February’s severe winter storm, and groups like Water Mission and Plumbers Without Borders are trying to take some of the burden off of local contractors

Texas Works to Recover From Plumbing Crisis

(Photos from Water Mission)

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Texas is gradually recovering from Winter Storm Uri and the literal flood of plumbing issues that have plagued residents over the past month, though there is still plenty of work left to do.

“In a normal disaster, you generally see it externally. You drive up and say, ‘Oh, this is a disaster.’ It’s obvious there was a disaster. But these disasters were inside the homes with frozen or burst pipes on the interior of the house,” Paul Mitchell, an Ohio plumber, recently described to the Dayton Daily News of what he and his wife saw while spending time in Austin, Texas, assisting with plumbing issues. “You drive up and the whole neighborhood looks just fine. It doesn’t really strike you immediately.”

The Mitchells went to Austin through Water Mission and Plumbers Without Borders, two groups that have banded together to help coordinate an out-of-state plumbing assist to help catch up on all the work that is too much for Texas’ plumbers to handle alone.

“They will never be able to get to all of their jobs, maybe within three to six months from now, so people are just desperate and plumbers are turning over their list of customers to Plumbers Without Borders and Water Mission,” Mitchell told the Dayton Daily News.

Mitchell said the first week in Austin they helped 120 apartments and homes get water back up and running. He had hauled a trailer containing $5,000 worth of supplies donated by his Cedarville, Ohio, community because acquiring enough supplies for repairs has been challenging in Texas during the recovery.

Addressing a plumbing crisis stateside is atypical for Water Mission and Plumbers Without Borders. Water Mission is a Christian organization, based in South Carolina, that typically works in developing countries to install water systems and improve people’s access to clean drinking water. Plumbers Without Borders is a small operation out of Washington state that connects volunteer licensed plumbers to organizations working to increase safe water access and improve sanitation. But in the wake of Winter Storm Uri and Texas’ local plumbers becoming overwhelmed with the amount of work, it was clear the two organizations could provide some welcome help.

“There’s no equipment down there. We’re trying to find plumbers with trucks and tools and materials who can head down,” Domenico DiGregorio, who runs Plumbers Without Borders with his wife, told NBC News.

“There is a massive need for a specific skillset that has a limited bandwidth based on what’s currently available in Texas,” George Greene IV, president and CEO of Water Mission, told NBC News. “There was a plumbing repair job that took someone 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, they restored water flow to a home that hadn’t had water in two weeks.”

“A lot of customers told us that they couldn’t get a plumber on the phone, or if they could get a plumber on the phone, they couldn’t help them two — at most four — weeks out. So during that time they wouldn’t have any running water at all,” Kisha Pinnock told CBS News. Pinnock traveled to Houston with her husband, Andrew Mitchell, owner of Mitchell’s Plumbing & Heating in New Jersey. Mitchell was visiting up to 10 homes a day while they were in Texas.

The demand has stayed constant.

“I worked about 14 or 15 days in a row before I got a day off on (March 7). We’re trying to work 10 to 12 hours a day starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m., so it’s been pretty hectic,” Alex Shoopman, a plumber with Citywide Services in Austin, told CBS Austin. “I basically just had to sit down and say you know what, I am going to do as many as I can in a day and that’s going to have to be good enough.”

Sources: Dayton Daily NewsNBC NewsCBS NewsCBS Austin


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