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Bardwell Sanctioned By State: TCEQ Issues Notice Of Enforcement Regarding Water Crisis

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J. Hoskins

The Ellis County Press

 

BARDWELL-   In a follow up to The Ellis County Press article “When the Bard-Well Went Dry”, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has taken action against the City of Bardwell for several violations of state law.

 

Contrary to what Mayor P.W. “Jinker” Gentry, along with Junior Lowry, a Bardwell citizen stated during the April council meeting, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, after contacting the City Water Superintendent, Wade Rhodes, was informed that many customers experienced water pressures of less than 20 PSI.   Mayor Gentry refused comment on this updated article.

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, this matter has been referred to the Enforcement Division.  According to their website:

“On Monday, March 24, 2008, D/FW Region 4 Office received a complaint via e-mail from Mr. Curtis Fisher, Drinking Water Division Austin, regarding water outage at City of Bardwell(PWS ID # 0700020), Ellis County.

The complainant was contacted on March 24, 2008. The complainant stated that the city is without water since Thursday, March 20, 2008. According to the complainant, the well pump is burnt out and it will take 2 weeks to repair the motor.

On March 24, 2008, several unsuccessful calls were made to City of Bardwell public works Office. Mr. Wade Rhodes, System Manager, was contacted on March 25, 2008 and asked if there had been a problem at City of Bardwell water system for the last several days. Mr. Wade stated that the city's only well is down due to deep well motor problems since Thursday, March 20, 2008. Mr. Wade stated that the system has been on emergency interconnection with Rural Bardwell WSC which also has only one well. Mr. Wade stated that it may take several days to replace the well motor.

Mr. Wade stated that all City of Bardwell customers (about 240 connections) are affected due to the water outage. Mr. Wade was asked if the distribution lines fully or partially dewatered. Mr. Wade stated that many customers may have experienced below 20 psi water pressure.

Mr. Wade was asked if any bacteriological samples were taken and if a boil water notice was issued. Mr. Wade stated that he did not issue boil water notice. Mr. Wade was advised to take bacteriological samples immediately and also issue boil water notice to the customers of the system since the system had been without adequate pressure for the last five days.

On March 25, 2008, several complainants contacted D/FW Region 4 investigator Imran Khawaja. The complainants stated that they still did not have water and it appeared that the city officials were not doing enough to resolve the problem.

The system official was advised that Notice of Enforcement would be issued for not issuing boil water notice in timely manner (within 24 hours). Subsequently the system has issued boil water notice on March 25, 2008.”

The City of Bardwell was issued a Notice of Enforcement, charging an offense against the City of Bardwell on April 23, 2008.  According to the TCEQ website, the City is being cited for “ Failure to issue a boil water notice in a timely manner when system conditions are such that a boil water notice is required”, a violation of  30 Texas Administrative Code Chapter 290, Subchapter D, specifically, 290.46(q)(1).  This section of law states:

 

“(q) Special precautions. Special precautions must be instituted by the water system owner or responsible official in the event of low distribution pressures (below 20 pounds per square inch (psi)), water outages, microbiological samples found to contain E. coli or fecal coliform organisms, failure to maintain adequate chlorine residuals, elevated finished water turbidity levels, or other conditions which indicate that the potability of the drinking water supply has been compromised.

1)     Boil water notifications must be issued to the customers within 24 hours using the prescribed notification format as specified in §290.47(e) of this title (relating to Appendices). A copy of this notice shall be provided to the executive director. Bilingual notification may be appropriate based upon local demographics. Once the boil water notification is no longer in effect, the customers must be notified in a manner similar to the original notice.”

In addition, the City of Bardwell was issued a Notice of Enforcement for a violation of 30 TAC Chapter 290, Subchapter D, specifically 290.122 (a), which states :

“a) Public notification requirements for acute violations. The owner or operator of a public water system must notify persons served by their system of any maximum contaminant limit (MCL), maximum residual disinfectant level (MRDL), or treatment technique violation that poses an acute threat to public health. Each notice required by this section must meet the requirements of subsection (d) of this section.

(2) The initial acute public notice and boil water notice required by this subsection shall be issued as soon as possible, but in no case later than 24 hours after the violation is identified. The initial public notice for an acute violation shall be issued in the following manner.

(A) The owner or operator of a water system with an acute microbiological or turbidity violation as described in paragraph (1)(A) or (B) of this subsection shall include a boil water notice issued in accordance with the requirements of §290.46(q) of this title (relating to Minimum Acceptable Operating Practices for Public Drinking Water Systems).

            According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, these notice of Enforcement actions state that the city did not comply with State Law, and that the drinking water was deemed to be unsafe, and that state law was not followed, which led to the actions being mandated by TCEQ, which included the issuance of a boil order, and because of the  City of Bardwell’s failure to follow state law, they have been issued two citations, or “notices of enforcement”.

The necessity of a boil order was disputed by Gentry,and Lowry, as well, in addition to one other citizen, who said that the pressure was adequate.  Both also maintained the water to have been safe, throughout the pressure drop.

State officials, even after talking to the city’s water superintendent, found this to be inaccurate, and disagree with Gentry and Lowry.

.  TCEQ contradicts Gentry’s and Lowry’s statements, by the issuance of the Notice of Enforcement Action, which cites threats to the safety of the citizens.

The Ellis County Press learned of the actions taken against the City on May 7th.   At this time, a fine amount has not yet been assessed, as the matter has not been addressed before a meeting of the Commission, however, this will take place at a future date.

Once again, Gentry's capability to be Mayor has been called in to question, as well as his integrity, based on his statements made to the citizens during the April 7th council meeting, dismissing any issues regarding the water safety.

            
The city  was cited for these serious public health violations, as was reported by The Ellis County Press after receiving numerous complaints from citizens, and after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was contacted.  The actions of TCEQ, which addressed the water situation also contradict the previous story The Ennis Daily News, which quoted Gentry.

The Ellis County Press will continue to provide updates to the Bardwell water situation, and what actions are taken against the City, once the matter is addressed before the Commission and what sanctions occur. 


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