Family: Its all in the water
Editor’s Note: The Ellis County Press was the first media outlet to break the water situation in Bardwell, in conjunction with CBS 11 out of Dallas. Following media coverage on this event, The Ellis County Press was contacted by a family in Bardwell, who requested that we use a fictitious name to keep them from being identified by the Mayor, P.W. Gentry and other city officials. The Ellis County Press agreed to this, in order to secure an interview on-the-record, regarding one family’s illnesses after drinking Bardwell water.
Family: It’s in the water
Bardwell residents complain of illnesses, blame mayor
Calls on mayor to resign; legal action looms
BARDWELL - The Eric Smith family has been ill after drinking Bardwell water, which they say is contaminated. Several times a year, they said the water pressure drops.
Each time, they report the water on W. Commerce turns to a “dirty brown.”
Each time, they report obtaining illnesses, which, until today, have been a result of the city’s water condition.
Smith said city officials sent notice of a “boil order” March 25 on his front door.
He said water pressure had been down for over a week and a half, prior to this being issued. He said he did not know there was a problem with the water and that he should have been informed “the day that it happened.”
His illnesses – diarrhea, an upset stomach, sore throat, large ulcers and soars - have developed inside his family’s mouths and tongues.
He said this same type of water quality and lack of pressure, as well as discolorations happen three or four times a year. He said the same illness has occurred in his entire family, which includes his wife and several children each time the pressure has dropped.
“We have never received a boil order before now,” Smith said. “I know why we have all been sick.”
He blames Bardwell’s contaminated water and officials for this, and for failing to notify the public about water pressure issues.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency and Centers For Disease Control, drinking contaminated water can lead to a host of diseases.
The contaminants can include paathogens that are disease-producing micro-organisms, which include bacteria (such as giardia lamblia), viruses and parasites.
They get into drinking water when the water source is contaminated by sewage and animal waste, or when wells are improperly sealed and constructed. The diseases are also linked, according to the federal agencies, to low pressure situations.
These parasites can cause gastroenteritis, salmonella infection, dysentery, shigellosis, hepatitis, and giardiasis (a gastrointestinal infection causing diarrhea, abdominal cramps and gas), in addition to ulcerations, sores, and many more diseases.
Then, members of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality stepped in and forced Mayor Gentry to comply with state law.
Gentry’s inaction, said Smith, will be met with potential litigation, something he hopes will eventually cause the removal of Gentry from office (last year on the last day of filing for local office, Gentry had Bardwell City Hall closed, preventing would-be challengers from filing).
Smith said he feels the elderly citizens – which comprise about 60 percent of Bardwell’s population - and people who are ill may suffer, including being killed by the mayor’s incompetence.
Gentry has refused repeated requests for comment on this story and previous articles.
Smith said he will not ever consume Bardwell water again.
Smith said he is fed up with the way that the city is ran, and fears that nothing will transpire at next Monday’s city council meeting.
At the Monday, April 7 meeting, Smith said city officials (Bardwell Police Chief Michael Spurgeon and his wife, City Secretary Shannon Spurgeon) – whom he alleges are in Gentry’s “back pocket” – will ensure that only mayoral supporters show up.
He suspects that because people are upset, the mayor will again revert to this tactic, one that was used in a previous council meeting against Councilmember Maggie Walker to overcome her demands the police department be abolished and the chief be fired.
This time, by putting the health and safety of the citizens at risk- Smith said Gentry “went too far” and that he “will answer for his actions,” either by citizen outrage, a court order or possible prosecution. The last resort, Smith said, is at the ballot box.
Filing for Bardwell city council and the mayoral seat won’t occur until February of next year. There is no recall provision since Bardwell is a state-designated “general law” city (towns with 5,000 residents or less).
Citizens or visitors to Bardwell who have become ill, or suspect illness related to drinking the possibly contaminated water are urged to contact the TCEQ at 1-888-777-3186, as well as the CDC at 1-800- 311-3435. State officials also said their health care providers should be contacted as well.