August 15, 2006
State Takes Over Water System on West Side
By Kim Jackson, Houston Chronicle
Aug. 15--The troubled water system in the Wrenwood subdivision, where residents have been forced to boil water for the past week, has been temporarily seized by the state and handed to a new operator.
Declaring an emergency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality gave control last Friday to Texas American Water Co. of El Campo. The firm has 180 days to get the west Houston subdivision into compliance with state code.
Wrenwood residents have complained for years about their private water operator, H&J Utility Co. On Aug. 7, the state ordered them to boil their drinking and cooking water.
H&J had failed to repair multiple leaks, maintain chlorination levels and take regular bacteria samples, said Lisa Wheeler, TCEQ spokeswoman.
Residents of the 150-home neighborhood must continue to boil their water until the new company fixes the problems, Wheeler said.
Wrenwood is at the northwest corner of the Katy Freeway and the West Sam Houston Tollway. The city annexed it in 1972, but H&J still has the state license to provide water.
Wrenwood residents said they are relieved the system is out of H&J's hands, but they want to know what happens now that Texas American Water Co. has taken control.
"We do feel good about this," said Wilburn "Dub" Wright, a Wrenwood resident. "But we have several concerns and questions. How will they bill us? What are the water rates? What standards do they have to follow and what prevents this from happening again?"
H&J owner Vergil Martin and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
A spokeswoman for Texas American Water Co. said it is working on a plan to fix Wrenwood's system. "We are making sure all of the pumps and motors are running first and then chlorinating the system," said Debra Vernon. "Then we will tackle all of the leaks."
Vernon said Texas American would begin billing Wrenwood residents for water service. She said residents would be responsible for the past three months of service that has not been billed by H&J Utility Co., but would have at least three months to pay it off.
Copyright (c) 2006, Houston Chronicle
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
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