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City of Rockdale starts $27 million water line replacement project

By Simona Barca,


One hundred years ago, Rockdale looked a lot different than it does now. One thing that hasn't changed though, is the water pipes.

"These are the old cast iron lines, and they are 100 years about in age,” said Barbara Holly, Rockdale's City Manager.

"What you see is both iron and manganese that's inside the pipe that's adding those bowls of just like extra stuff, and then because our water is so corrosive, and so acidic, it's also causing it to rust.”

According to Holly, the city has been working on this project for six years.

"They started the process in 2017, we got the loan in 2020, and they just now approved the plans in 2023 from our engineers.”

The $27 million dollar project is expected to replace 23 miles of cast iron pipes with PVC pipes.

“If you've ever heard of Rockdale, you've probably heard of red water," Holly said.

"So the rust, the iron and the manganese are all contributing to that. With PVC, you're not going to have that.”

Red water is an issue that Rockdale residents know all too well.

Dale Mantey, a lifelong Rockdale resident, says it's most common on the older side of the town.

"That's just red water. It's just it's not good. Don't wash. Forget drinking. We’d given up drinking tap water in Rockdale 10 years ago,” Mantey said.

He and other residents say the quality of the water interferes with their everyday lives.

“You can't wash your clothes," Mantey said.

"People are driving from one side of town to the other side of town to go to laundromats when they have perfectly good washing machines at home."

Despite the current issues with the water — Holly says conditions are already improving.

"For the first time that I know of, we're in complete TCEQ compliance for all of our water numbers,” Holly said.

Preparations are already underway for the new project.

Holly says phase one will be starting with state roads FM 47 and FM 908, then they'll be moving through the rest of the city.

As for the residents, they say they hope this will be a step toward improving the quality of their water.

The city hopes to start construction on the project in May and once they start, they hope to complete it in 18 months.

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