By Kim Hilsenbeck
With 17 water main breaks in the past year, residents of Chaparral Park in northern Hays County are upset. Large patches of dug up dirt sit in the easements of many yards.
On June 19, Aqua Texas issued a boil water notice due to the most recent break in the water main. Neighbors say they are fed up.
Karen Aboussie said, “In the 4 years that I have lived here, I’ve had to replace two washing machines and a kitchen faucet. When the repairman was here…he also said he had not seen anything like this with such a new machine and the guts were completely ruined due to the water quality. I have a…Kinetico system, however, it just does not overcome the poor quality water.”
Aqua Texas purchased the rights to the water system in 2003. Many of the homes in the neighborhood were built in the late 1970s. The firm owns other water systems including Southwest Territory, Copper Hills, Bear Creek and Leisurewoods.
“We are seeing [pipes break] in a few other systems,” Brent Reeh, Central Texas area manager, said in a recent phone interview. “Heat plays a huge part and rain causes ground swelling.”
Reeh said rocks can also crack pipes.
Should the pipe still be in good shape after about 35 years?
Reeh said the lifespan of PVC pipe depends on several factors including where the pipe is placed. In general, he said PVC pipe can last 50 years.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an aging system,” he said. His crews keep a log of reported breaks. Following a review of the Chaparral Park system log, spurred by a request from the Hays Free Press, company spokesperson Gretchen Toner said in an email, “[Reeh and his staff] did see a recurring problem on Bluebird Drive and noted that this area is reportedly solid rock whereas most of the rest of the system is primarily dirt. They completely replaced pipe in that area during the last leak by using a 6” pipe as a sleeve and slip-lining a 4” pipe through the sleeve to protect it.”
Despite the replacement, neighbors remain upset, and not just about the water main breaks. Their concerns include what many called poor water quality, sand getting into the water system and pipes in homes, and high usage rates.
Resident Jim Tennison said, “When Aqua Texas began repairing the piping structure down Bluebird…we began to find what our plumber calls “river sand” which is just very small gravel, in all of our faucets, toilet flush regulators, and shower heads. So far, we have spent a bit more than $1400 on plumbing bills for replacements and repairs.”
Reeh said the water in the Chaparral Park neighborhood meets the state-mandated quality requirements set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
“I believe that the water we provide meets state TCEQ requirements; I feel like water is good water,” he said. “We test it monthly and the annual reports are due out in July.”