Dealer of the Month: Dealing With Disaster

Texas dealership helps clients handle the aftermath of a major flood

If you operate a water softening service in the Houston metropolitan area, you need to be prepared for anything. In recent years, the region has experienced everything from a historic drought to a record-breaking flood, and the quality of its water has been affected by each extreme event. Thankfully, Rosenberg, Texas, located just southwest of Houston, has Homer’s Soft Water, which has been helping customers deal with the peculiarities of the area’s water for 30 years.

Image above: Owner Kevin Davitt, Lead Technician Feli Ramirez and Feneral Manager James Moore lead Homer's Soft Water in helping resolve customers' water quality issues. Contaminated wells have been especially problematic in the past year due to major flooding in the Houston area. 

Family Business

Homer Blake founded Homer’s Soft Water in October 1987. Blake previously had worked in the auto body industry and had not considered entering the water treatment industry until a salesman came to his door and tried to sell him a water softener.

“He was like, ‘Oh, we don’t need that. There’s nothing wrong,’” said Kevin Davitt, the current owner of Homer’s Soft Water and Blake’s son-in-law. “My mother-in-law was in the back and was like, ‘Please, let him come in! We have horrible water.’ They lived out in the country, [and their water had] a lot of iron and a nasty smell. So he started talking to the salesman. He’d always been fascinated with water, and he thought this might be kind of cool to get into.”

Blake got a job with a water softening company shortly thereafter, and started Homer’s Soft Water a few years later. As is the case with many small businesses, the dealership struggled to establish itself.

“I know it was very, very tough for him,” Davitt said. “A lot of times for the first few years, he was a one-man show.”

Blake and his family persevered, however, and Homer’s Soft Water became a trusted part of the Fort Bend County community. Davitt began working for the company in 2000, shortly after he proposed to Blake’s daughter, Leah. (The couple married in 2001.) In 2016, Davitt purchased the dealership from Blake.

“It is a wonderful privilege,” Davitt said. “My brother-in-law James [Moore] is my general manager, and we have a beautiful relationship. We grew up together—he is actually a little older than me, but his parents and my parents were very close, and we ended up marrying into the same family. It’s interesting how life works, you know?”

In the Wake of the Flood

Davitt and his team have faced major challenges through the years. In the early part of this decade, they dealt with the water issues caused by the severe drought that affected much of the southern U.S. For much of the past year, however, they have had to address a new set of problems created by a much different type of natural disaster.

In April and May 2016, eastern Texas experienced several days of torrential rainfall, which caused the Brazos River—which flows just north of Rosenberg—to crest at a record 54.81 ft. The river broke its banks and flooded the city, and Homer’s Soft Water is still helping residents deal with the damage it caused.

“We have come across countless people whose wellheads were covered with river water,” Davitt said. “People don’t realize that if your well’s covered and you’re running it, when the well turns on, it creates a bit of suction. Even if people weren’t running their wells, a wellhead is not completely, 100% sealed tight.”

As a result, water from the Brazos River—which has high bacterial loads due to agricultural runoff and fracking along its 1,050-mile-long watershed—has found its way into local wells and the Gulf Coast Aquifer.

“We have come across people who have been testing positive for coliform and E. coli in their wells,” Davitt said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had reports and met people who have been in the hospital.”

The team at Homer’s Soft Water has been working to educate the community about issues caused by the flood, administering BacT tests on customers’ well water and treating affected wells with chlorine.

“We are still meeting people who are having issues with their water,” Davitt said. “They’re continuing to get a positive coliform. And this flood event happened in May. It’s been an incredible year—tragic, really.”

A Team Effort

When Davitt encounters unprecedented issues such as those created by the Brazos River flood, he feels comfortable turning to the Texas Water Quality Assn. (TWQA) for information and assistance.

“I am thrilled to have that support,” Davitt said. “What I appreciate about it is that I can pick up the phone and call [Executive Director] Daina [Grace] or members of the association if I have any issues or needs. And I did with this flooding event. I needed to pick some brains.”

With the help of TWQA members, Davitt has been able to effectively identify problems caused by the flood and develop solutions for his customers.

“I talked to a guy out in West Texas, and he goes, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a link between silica and [severe flooding],’ Davitt said. “I didn’t know that. And I’ve been able to help other dealers with our expertise.”

Spreading Soft Water

Regardless of the circumstances that create water quality issues, the team at Homer’s Soft Water is pleased to be in the business of helping people.

“To be able to go back and do a follow-up with [customers], and they’re so ecstatic about their water—I think that’s an amazing accomplishment,” Davitt said. “That’s my favorite part of the job—when you get to go back and see the change.”

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About the author

Michael Meyer is associate editor for WQP. Meyer can be reached at [email protected] or 847.954.7940.