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Creekside water system under scrutiny of state regulators

Local News, Notes and Events
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2016/2/24 1:00:00 (3025 reads)

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A fire hydrant in Creekside was open earlier this month to depressurize the water system so crews there could repair a leak. (Photo by Steve Southwell)
By STEVE SOUTHWELL

Last month, The Lewisville Texan Journal reported that residents of Creekside mobile home park were frustrated by frequent water service outages and having to boil water to ensure safety.

On Friday, Feb. 5, the park was without water once again for hours while a line was being repaired.

But unlike past outages, residents said they received individual notices in advance on their doors in both English and Spanish - an improvement from a sign located near the entrance to the park that served as notice for previous outages.

Residents seemed to think that notice was a good sign at first, but Denice Crafton, who was quoted in the original story, says problems continue.

“[We] still never got notice to stop boiling water from the last outage,” she said. The park office later told her they had put out a sign.

Last Wednesday night, the water was off again with no prior notice.

LTJ reached out to the park, but the woman who answered would only say that maintenance had been called. She wouldn’t provide any information about the cause of the outage, and once the water started to come back on, she could not tell us whether it was safe to drink or not. Crafton called the office again the next day, and they told her the water was fine.


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Sign from earlier this month informed residents of a planned outage. (Photo by Steve Southwell)
The Creekside Water System is currently in a state of legal limbo. In 2011, when the park was sold by its prior owner to its current owner, the water system was not transferred correctly. CP Limited Partnership is the previous owner and AMC Creekside, an affiliate of Michigan-based RHP Properties, is the new owner.

The system operates under a state-sanctioned monopoly through a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity, which is administered under the Public Utilities Commission of Texas. State law requires that water system owners get PUC approval for transfers in ownership. That process never happened in 2011. In September 2014, the old and new owners filed an application with PUC to transfer that CCN to the new company.

The PUC has not approved the transfer. Public records show that PUC staff have proposed a list of issues that the commission has determined need to be resolved by an administrative law judge. Among those issues:


Will approving the sale serve the public interest?
Is the new owner capable of rendering adequate and continuous service to every consumer?

Does the purchaser have a history of noncompliance with the requirements of the TCEQ?

Does the purchaser have the financial ability to provide the necessary capital investment to ensure the provision of continuous and adequate service to the customers?

Is it feasible to obtain service from an adjacent retail public utility?

The case will be heard by an administrative law judge who will conduct a hearing on the merits in Austin on May 10-12.

AMC faced an extended deadline on Jan. 29 to file its direct testimony and exhibits for the case. As of press time, those documents were not yet available from the PUC.

“We have lived there for around 11 years, and ever since this new company has come in and taken over, the park itself has gone downhill,” said resident Derek Blyton. “I used to work security with the old company in that park. The way things are handled and taken care of now is ridiculous. We have been trying to figure out a way to get out of that park as fast as we can. We are so tired of living there now.”

In the documents filed with the PUC, Creekside admitted that it was under an enforcement order from Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, which is the agency that enforces technical regulations for water providers in the state.

In February 2014, the TCEQ slapped Creekside with a $420 fine over two issues with their water system. Though the commission calculated that Creekside pocketed $2,171 in savings, it was cheaper for the company to just pay the fine.

Creekside was told it would need to increase its system’s pumping capacity to provide 0.6 gallons per minute per connection. Creekside also needed to have an approved emergency power source capable of providing 0.35 gallons per minute per connection.

TCEQ calculated that it would cost Creekside about $10,000 to provide the emergency power for its water distribution, and that Creekside had saved itself $571 in depreciation costs by deferring that purchase. TCEQ also calculated that Creekside saved itself $1,599 in depreciation costs by deferring the estimated $20,000 it would cost for extra pumping capacity.

Creekside installed a new pump at their water plant in March 2015, at a cost of $37,087. At the time of the application, they were expecting to install a new generator that October at a cost of $100,000.

TCEQ drastically underestimated the costs for Creekside to comply, and thus under-estimated the savings that Creekside was able to pocket by under-powering the water system.

Residents wishing to contact the PUC about water outages or adequacy may use the form on the PUC website: http://tiny.cc/pucwater

Residents with complaints about water quality or boil water notices can contact TCEQ using this form on their website: http://tiny.cc/tceqcomplaint

Creekside and RHP personnel have declined interview requests by The Lewisville Texan Journal.

Stay tuned to The Lewisville Texan Journal for updates.


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