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Bardwell Back Under Boil Order

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J. Hoskins
The Ellis County Press

BARDWELL-  The City of Bardwell has re-issued a boil water notice effective June 5th until further notice, the second such notice since March 25th of this year, following yet another severe pressure drop.  According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the city must issue a boil order when the pressure drops below 20 PSI.   On Thursday, for the 2nd time in under two months, this happened, yet again.  

The City of Bardwell has recently received a "notice of enforcement", charging the city with multiple violations of state law regarding water safety for the pressure drop and for failure to issue a boil order notice following the March 2008 water pump failure, and subsequent failure to issue a boil order as required by law, within 24 hours of a pressure drop.   In that case, the city waited 5 days to issue the required boil order, and only after the state ordered them to do so.   The Ellis County Press has recieved numerous documents from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, in response to an open records act request, including the investigation details which led to the previous boil order notification.   According to TCEQ officials "volumes" of documents relating to the city's water supply are housed in the central records center located at their offices in Austin.

In particular, an agreement signed by former Mayor Patsy Honza from 2001 was sent to this newspaper by the state.   TNRCC (Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission), now known as TCEQ entered into an agreement with Honza and the City of Bardwell, that they would keep their R/O (Reverse Osmosis) system operational.   According to Bardwell residents and council members, Mayor P.W. "Jinker" Gentry ordered the R/O system deactivated after becoming mayor, as it "cost the city too much money".   Bardwell has been fined and sanctioned on multiple occasions since the 1990s, including on at least 3 occasions since 2001.   The city entered into the agreement to follow all state rules and regulations regarding water on January 30, 2002.  The city failed to comply with that ruling, by the deactivation of the R/O system, according to TCEQ officials.

When attempts to contact Gentry were made on Thursday evening by News Editor Joey Dauben and Investigative Reporter J. Hoskins, Gentry did not answer his telephone.  At the time of the phone calls, Gentry was observed to be at home.  Earlier in the day, as the boil order was being issued, residents report Gentry was sitting on his tailgate consuming alcoholic beverages in view of the public, according to Bardwell residents who witnessed this occuring.   Gentry, himself the subject of an Attorney General's ruling to produce documents relating to the water issue, among other documents, refused comment.

At this time, water is once again not safe for consumption in this tiny town west of Ennis, which has become a common occurrence in a city that has habitual violations of state laws and regulations regarding water, among other violations of the law regarding the conduct of it's day-to-day business and operation.

The open records that TCEQ has provided are being analyzed at this time, but do show a pattern of practices that can adversely affect the health of the citizens, through unsafe water practices.   At least this time, the city issued a boil order notice, something that had not been done until TCEQ forced them to issue such notice on March 25th.

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