Horseshoe Bend residents are angry after experiencing low water pressure or having no water at all over the past week, the latest in a series of similar incidents stretching back decades.
Residents reported that while crews were working to bring wells back online and fix a broken pump station Friday, they were still upset with the delay in fixing the problem and deeply frustrated with how often the water system malfunctions.
The small community on the Brazos River in Southwest Parker County has repeatedly dealt with low water pressure, watering restrictions and boil water notices over the past two decades or more, and residents say their concerns have not been taken seriously by Granbury-based Texas Rain Holding Co. Inc., which operates the Bend’s water system.
“It’s horrible. This should have been fixed days ago,” resident Shelly Rose said. “This is water. It’s one thing if your lights go out. But water is essential. If they took us seriously, our water would be back on the same day as it goes out. It’s ridiculous.
“If they’re not taking care of their people, they need to sell. The state of Texas needs to put something down on them. They’re hurting people, and they’re killing them.”
Texas Rain Holding Co. Inc. did not respond to repeated calls and messages seeking comment by press time Friday.
The Democrat was referred to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s media department by Horseshoe Bend’s TCEQ representative, but did not receive a response to a request for comment by press time Friday.
Many in the Bend are low-income with medical needs, Rose said. The unreliable water system places a financial and mental burden on them and has the potential to be life-threatening.
“We have an unusually high cancer rate for such a small community,” Rose, who has lived in the Bend for four years, said. “It’s been four days since we had water. We’ve had a trickle here or there, but you can’t do anything with that. I’m out of town caring for my sick mother, but my husband and sister-in-law are at my house in Horseshoe Bend. They’ve been telling me what’s going on.
“My husband, who has rectal cancer, has lost several hundred dollars’ worth of ileostomy bags. They’re meant to be reusable. He has to use them, but he can’t clean them. That’s a lot of money for someone who is disabled and has to live on a budgeted income. He’s been through 120 radiation treatments and I can’t tell you how many rounds of chemotherapy, and all this time, the water has been on and off.
“If his ileostomy gets infected and the tissue dies, that’s another surgery. He had one just two months ago. This could literally kill him.”
Monty O’Hair, who moved to the Bend two years ago, said he regrets purchasing property there in light of the continuous problems with the water system and the inability to contact the water company.
“It’s awful. I’m considering selling at this point,” he said. “We’ve lived there for two years, and it’s been a constant battle to have regular water. This winter, there was a week where we didn’t have water because a pipe burst. It takes forever to get things fixed. According to our TCEQ agent, everything is being done that can be done.
“But it’s a constant battle with Texas Rain, to even get a hold of them. On Thursday I called them four times back to back. When I finally spoke with someone there, we discussed what was going on. The voicemail for their emergency line is constantly full, and the person who used to manage that line no longer works there. I know my mother has had these issues, too: she told me recently that she had been trying to call them for a week just to pay her water bill, and she couldn’t get a hold of anybody.”
O’Hair has had trouble caring for his livestock with the water issues, he said.
“This morning, I went out to the barn to water the animals, and there was no water. It’s like this all the time,” he said. “We have five acres with sheep, goats, a couple of head of cattle and small calves. We pay for this service but we can’t water our yards or do anything.”
“I think Texas Rain is doing the bare minimum to stay above the law, and apparently that’s OK.”
The inefficient water system also poses a fire hazard to the community, resident of 30 years and professional firefighter/EMT Myrick Holder said.
“Several lives would be at stake if a fire were to break out here,” he said. “We’ve never had good water pressure to begin with from the water source down here. But with no water at all, if there were to be a large fire the closest place to shuttle water from would be the old Tin Top volunteer fire station.
“That’s at least 15 minutes away. If there was a grass fire in this area, it would be completely out of hand by the time they were able to shuttle water over here.”
While the community does sit on the Brazos River, pumping from the river would “only produce so much water per minute” and would still require trips to other pumping stations to fight the fire.
Even when water does flow, residents refuse to drink it because it is “extremely unsanitary,” Holder said.
“Anyone in the Bend will tell you the same thing,” he said. “The water quality has been horrible for as long as I can remember. Everyone I know is afraid to drink it. We end up buying bottled water to drink. Even before the boil water notices, people were afraid to drink it.”
Having to purchase bottled drinking water places an additional financial burden on the low-income community, Rose said.
“If I had to guess, I’d say about 80 percent of us here in the Bend are on welfare or assisted living,” she said. “You can’t afford to go out and buy 10 gallons of water every time you need it. And you end up using your food stamps to buy gallons and gallons of water instead of the food you need.”
The poor quality of the water also damages appliances, several residents said.
“I use bottled water in my ice maker and everything like that because it’ll ruin them,” Holder said. “The deposits build up over time and ruin anything you use water in.”
“It tears up your appliances. You have to turn your hot water heater off because it blows the element,” Rose said. “It also degrades and corrodes the pipelines in your washer and dishwasher. I’ve never seen water do this. And if it’s doing that to appliances, what is it doing to our insides?”