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Creekside residents on boil water routine after numerous outages

Local News, Notes and Events
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2016/1/23 15:30:00 (3721 reads)

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Creekside's water system (LTJ Photo)

By Steve Southwell

Creekside mobile home park residents say they have an unreliable water supply with frequent outages that require residents to boil the water before use. But, they say a lack of communication over the issue has more than just the water boiling.

The park has its own community water system serving its 553 homes. Creekside bills residents for the water it sells them.

Resident Denice Crafton, who likes living at Creekside, says water has always been a hot topic but recently worsened. She says the park averages an outage per month, but that they recently had several outages within nine days.

Another resident preferred to remain anonymous in fear of retribution from management. They provided a list of outages on Jan. 4, 9, 11, 13 and 19, which they said lasted between two to nine hours each. The outages have become more frequent in the past year, they said.

Crafton said the park’s owners do not return phone calls or reply to certified letters.

“I'm not trying to bash the owners,” she said. “I just want things to improve in the community and with their communications with us about what is going on.”

Residents say the owners give no explanations when the water goes out. They provide no information on expected restoration times.
Crafton says the park doesn’t pay residents any restitution for the water they have to buy to drink or to flush toilets. It gets even more expensive though, she said, as she ends up having to dine out because she cannot wash dishes and produce properly.

“A sponge bath just won't cut it in August,” said Crafton. “I keep refilled bottles of water just for my toilets because this happens so often.”

The anonymous source says the outages made it difficult to mix up baby formula.

The Creekside water system is not connected to the city’s public water supply. It draws groundwater, up to 300 gallons of water per minute, from two wells.

When that system’s pumps fail or water lines break, they lose pressure. When the lines lose pressure, contaminants could flow into the pipes, and the water could lose chlorination and harbor bacteria.

In these cases, residents must boil the water for a minute before they use it for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth, or washing dishes.

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Water well at Creekside mobile home park (LTJ Photo)

State law requires that operators of water systems like Creekside provide notice to their customers when water must be boiled due to contamination or loss of pressure. That notice must be provided to each resident within 24 hours, and a copy must be sent to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates water systems in the state.

Crafton says that the park management puts a small sign up near the entrance to the park saying “boil water until further notice”. But that sign, she says, is often obscured by cars parked in front of it. Another problem, she says, is that many of the park’s residents speak Spanish, but the notices are in English. And not all residents travel past the entrance each day. Crafton says some residents are homebound.

Creekside has a spotty compliance history with TCEQ. Their record shows a series of 11 violations from 2005 to 2015 mostly relating to a failure to properly handle consumer confidence reporting, but sometimes relating to the boil water notices.

On July 13 of last year, TCEQ issued a notice of two violations based on a May 2 outage. Creekside failed to submit copies of its boil water notices to TCEQ. On Oct. 21, TCEQ issued a notice of enforcement against Creekside for a Sept. 2 outage where they again failed to submit copies of their boil water notices to the agency.

In 2014, Creekside was hit with a violation relating to chlorine monitoring.

As of Friday afternoon, Crafton was still boiling water because of the previous outage.

TCEQ water investigator Ariel Yeh said that boil water notice would likely be lifted soon since lab results had come back. Yeh, who had visited Creekside on Thursday to investigate the problems, said that Creekside did not have the boil water sign displayed as they should have and she instructed them to redisplay the sign. When The LTJ visited the park on Friday afternoon, we did not see any sign.

Yeh explained that there are several ways for a community water system to give proper notice, including notices delivered to each customer, phone calls, publication in the media, or placing prominent signs. Signs must remain in place for the duration of the time that residents are required to boil water.

Once the boil water order is lifted, the water system operator is again required to notify all customers the water is safe to use without boiling. TCEQ has no regulation for how long that notice must be displayed, but Yeh said she recommends two days.

Lewisville spokesman James Kunke said that the city shares the residents’ frustrations with the water system but has no authority over it.

“That regulatory authority rests solely with the TCEQ and maintenance responsibility rests solely with Creekside management,” he said.

The city has shared its concerns with TCEQ, Kunke said. He said that the city does receive phone calls from Creekside residents about the water difficulties, and that they recommend residents contact TCEQ.

Fire protection is another concern for residents when the water system is down. But Kunke said that the Lewisville Fire Department does have plans in place in the event that pressure there is insufficient. “We are confident that they would be able to respond to an emergency in a timely and effective manner,” he said. Kunke said that the city asked Creekside’s management to notify public safety dispatch of any water service outages.

The LTJ spoke with management staff in the park’s office briefly on Friday. Community manager Becky Avery and a coworker who did not identify herself said that they had only worked there for two weeks or less. Avery would only say that the company was “working actively” to address the problems. Avery and her colleague said they could provide no additional comment. Avery provided the name of a district manager to answer questions but not any contact information.

The anonymous source provided the email address and the LTJ attempted to contact them. But, a response was not received by the time of publication.

Jennifer Swiderski, media contact for RHP Properties, which owns the park, said that she had no comment on the situation Friday afternoon.

TCEQ was not able to answer our questions Friday afternoon regarding any regulatory authority the agency has to ensure the reliability of the water system, and hold the owners accountable for the failures.

The Lewisville Texan Journal will provide updates as we learn more.

Update - Saturday morning:
A resident sent us a photo of a sign informing residents that the water is fine to drink again without boiling.

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