Horseshoe Bend isn’t alone in its need for reliable, drinkable water in Parker County: Mountain River residents say they’ve had similar water woes.
Both water systems are operated by Texas Rain Holding Company.
Shortly before a recent meeting of the Mountain River Owners Association, residents detailed a long list of complaints with the company that operates the water system in their neighborhood along the Brazos River straddling the Parker County-Palo Pinto County line.
Letta Staggs said she contacted TCEQ in February about a leak near her home that she repeatedly called Texas Rain about but when they fixed it a long time later, they left the road in bad condition.
“That leak went on for a least a month,” Staggs said.
Bruce Wright said a leak near his home was left for at least three weeks, soaking the road.
“That’s common,” Wright said. “Then they want to gouge you on the water bill after letting them run like that.”
When the leak was fixed, it left a large hole in the ground that he had to fix, Wright said.
Cheryl Van Dyke said she called three times on a leak in her neighborhood but it was allowed to grow larger.
Residents said the leaks often impact water pressure or cause the community to go without water.
Residents said they’ve had multiple outages just since January.
In January, TCEQ records show, the neighborhood was without water for days.
The weekend before the Fourth of July, the neighborhood also had a water outage, residents said.
“This was the first time they had trucked water in for us,” Jana Morazzano, who moved back to Mountain River in 2011, said.
In addition to the difficulties and expense of obtaining access to water to drink, cook, clean, bathe and wash clothes during a water outage, Van Dyke also worries about what will happen if a home in the community catches on fire.
The neighborhood has its own fire department as it is so far away from help.
Low water pressure is common issue, as well.
“We deal with low pressure a lot,” Morazzano said.
Like many others, when the community has low pressure, her family can’t do laundry and finds it difficult to take a shower, Morazzano said.
Boil water notices – required due to the risk of unsafe water when there is low pressure – are also common and can last weeks or months at a time.
“We’re constantly under boil water notices,” Morazzano said. “And rarely do we ever get a notice saying you don’t have to boil your water any more. They’ve been a little more compliant since TCEQ’s gotten involved but they really haven’t fixed anything too much.”
“We live in America, in the great state of Texas,” Robbie Evans said. “Why do we not have potable water here in Mountain River?”
Residents also wonder about the quality of the water.
Evans told the Democrat that the last water quality report she’d seen was from 2013, prior to Texas Rain taking over operations.
A consumer confidence report obtained by the Democrat shows the water has not been tested for most substances as required since 2016.
“The water down here has never been great but ever since Texas Rain took over, it’s been even worse,” Morazzano said.
The water foams and bleaches out her shirts, Morazzano said. “You can smell the bleach in the water.”
Like most Mountain River residents who spoke with the Democrat, Morazzano said she doesn’t drink or cook with the water.
Many residents also report difficulty reaching anybody with the company, including to report leaks or take care of billing issues.
Several residents said they believe, based on seeing their meter boxes remain full of dirt covering the meter, that the company isn’t actually reading the meters, and when they want to dispute a high bill, they have difficulty doing so.
“I had a bill problem with them,” Morazzano said. “It took me six months to get my bill right.”
The Democrat Thursday repeatedly attempted to reach Texas Rain Holding Company at its listed numbers for its Mansfield and Granbury offices and left a message with an employee but was unable to reach anybody for comment.
“On Jan. 19, 2018, the TCEQ conducted an investigation in response to several complaints received the same day alleging an ongoing water outage,” TCEQ spokesman Andrew Keese told the Democrat by email. “The investigation resulted in a notice of enforcement and a referral for formal enforcement.”
“The notice of enforcement noted above will be included in an existing case (Docket No. 2017-0019-PWS-E), which is the result of multiple investigations that have been conducted at the Mountain River Water Co. The case addresses numerous violations associated with monitoring and reporting, operations and maintenance of the system, record-keeping, and payment of regulatory assessment fees. As this matter is still under development and may be subject to future litigation, the TCEQ cannot comment further on the case.”
“On May 14, 2018, the TCEQ received several citizen complaints regarding a boil water notice, water leaks, and disinfection concerns. On May 18, 2018, a complaint investigation was conducted which did not document any violations.”
The system’s owner, Frank Sparks, of Santo, said he is concerned that the situation is endangering people but he is locked into an operating agreement with Texas Rain.
Sparks, who has owned the public water system since the 1980s, entered into a 5-year contract with Texas Rain in June 2014 to operate the system, according to information from TCEQ.
Under the terms of the arrangement, Texas Rain is responsible for conducting water system maintenance, repairs, conducting required sampling and testing, maintaining required paperwork, performing billing and maintaining work orders.
Sparks said Texas Rain collects the cost of operating the system from water customers directly.
Sparks said he has issues with how the public water system he owns is being managed but can’t reach the people he contracted with to run it.
“They don’t talk to me,” Sparks said. “They don’t answer the telephone and I can’t get in touch with them. Haven’t for a year.
“I’ve been trying to get something done, get somebody else in there.”
Sparks said he’s been unable to get out from the contract early.
“I can’t understand how they’ve gotten along this far without the state stepping in and taking over,” Sparks said of Texas Rain.
Sparks said he’s talked to several people with TCEQ.
“They don’t seem to know what’s going on themselves,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. I’ve done everything I know to do.”
“It’s a terrible mess and, well, it’s endangering people’s lives.”
“If there’s anything I can do, I would have done it or would, if I knew what to do,” Sparks said. “But my hands are tied. They got me in that contract, and I don’t know how to get loose from it.”
Under the arrangement, Sparks said Texas Rain was supposed to be making payments to him and would have an option to purchase the utility.
However, those payments stopped over a year ago and that sale won’t be occurring, he said.