Water

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect quotes attributed to SouthWest Director of Operations Terry Benton.

After residents struggled with water issues over the summer, upgrades to the Western Lake and Brazos Ridge subdivision systems are underway, according to system owner Monarch Utilities.

Resident Robyn Winter-Sky reached out to the Weatherford Democrat last week about drought restriction and continued outage/leak notices she was receiving.

“Every time there is a ‘leak,’ [SouthWest Water Company] wastes a lot of water while they track down where the leak is. There is also the issue of every time there is a leak, one or two or more residents get outrageous bills for water usage they did not use,” Winter-Sky said. “I have continually advised all residents to use their cell phone and take a picture of their meter reading in the morning and just before they head to bed. Be proactive, don’t wait to be a victim of SWWC’s scam of manipulating your meter reading and charging you hundreds of dollars in their effort to ‘cover their tracks’ for wasting water from their pipes breaking.”

The systems are owned by Monarch Utilities and operated by SouthWest Water Company. Terry Benton, director of operations for SouthWest Water Company, Texas Utilities East, said they did receive one claim in regards to a meter jump.

“We identified a customer that fielded a claim about a jump. Meters do not jump unless customers increase their usage. In analyzing their bill, we verified that there was not a jump in fee or usage for the past four months,” Benton said. 

Benton said improvements to the systems are underway.

“For the past two months, routine testing and substantial improvements have been underway for our Brazos Ridge Estates and Western Lake Estates systems. We’ve contacted households by mail, email and text to ensure they have the best chance at being informed to minimize disruption. We’ve also been in touch with the Homeowner’s Association,” he said. “Recent system investments include the replacement of valves and distribution pumps as well as repairs and replacement of main lines.”

In July, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality conducted an investigation and a notice of violation was sent to the water company, according to TCEQ Media Relations Specialist Andrew Keese. One violation was documented for failure to maintain an iron level below the secondary constituent level. Keese said that violation is currently active.

“TCEQ received five additional complaints from July 21 through Aug. 1, alleging the water system had frequent water outages and low pressure. These complaints were investigated on July 23. While onsite, the investigator installed a pressure logger at each pressure plane to monitor pressure,” Keese said. “On July 29, the pressure loggers were retrieved. Based on the readings, water pressure below 20 psi was noted on two occasions. A notice of violation was sent to Western Lake Estates on Aug. 22 for failure to maintain a minimum pressure of 35 psi throughout the distribution system. This violation is currently active.”

Benton said Monarch responded to the TCEQ regarding the violation on Sept. 23 to close out the violation.

"The TCEQ acknowledged receipt of our response and that the response was satisfactory," Benton said. "The compliance letter is still in the review period."

Benton said they have upgraded the operations of the system to include improved chlorine tanks, the addition of a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system, improved piping to help with filling and the use of storage tanks, updated the pump controls with variable frequency drives, replaced electrical equipment to reduce the chance of failures and added air compressors to facilitate the high-pressure tanks’ use and reduce transients in the pipelines.

“The safety and quality of our water utility system for our customers is of the utmost importance to us — as is keeping our community informed. As such, we test often and have been making substantial improvements to the water system serving this community,” Benton said. “[Oct. 15], service was temporarily suspended in Brazos Ridge Estates while new water lines were tied. Customers were called 24 hours in advance to inform them of the planned outage and received a notice of the change from Stage 2 to Stage 1 drought restrictions.”

According to Benton, moving from Stage 2 to Stage 1 is less restrictive. 

Keese said TCEQ has received no more complaints from residents since Aug. 1.