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Plumber shortage creates wait list for some services

Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 6:41 PM CST
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - These days, there’s no business like the plumbing business.

“Our phones are just ringing off the hook this morning,” said Tommy Ervin.

Winter Storm Uri has come and gone, leaving a wake of busted pipes and broken appliances. Ervin knows this because he’s living it each day.

“We didn’t know it was going to be this tough,” he said.

He owns Ervin Plumbing & Supply in Odessa. With customers driving long distances—over 100 miles in some cases—to buy supplies, the business has struggled to maintain inventory.

“You know, we’ve had people in here from Ft. Stockton and Monahans looking for parts,” Ervin said. “They’ve been all over town, this, that, and the other stuff. We just did the best we could.”

But it isn’t only a supply shortage.

“It’s pretty obvious we have a shortage of plumbers,” Ervin said. “I’ll let my guys work 80 hours per week, and that’s just about it.”

The plumbing shortage is a statewide issue. After the winter storm, Gov. Greg Abbott waived certain regulations to allow plumber’s apprentices to perform plumbing repairs.

“I’ve got six licensed plumbers and three helpers,” Ervin said. “There’s been times when I’ve got the helpers taking pipes apart, waiting on the technicians, the licensed plumbers, to go in and actually do the repairs.”

Ervin sees that changing in the future.

“We’re starting to see some people, mid-20-years old, being interested in plumbing, kinda getting to know what’s going on and the health issues that we deal with,” he said.

For now, the future looks busy.

“It’ll be months from now, and we’ll still be fixing issues that happened today.”

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