Axtell residents served by Moore Water System welcomed the arrival of 2018 by scrambling to find water for drinking and bathing. The problem is likely to continue into next week as a company from California travels to the community east of Waco to patch a damaged well.
Issues with service provided by the decades-old water company have customers using Facebook to share updates, including news that Stuart Parsons, owner of Parsons Roofing and BSR Cable Park, has agreed to loan the water company $30,000 to cover the cost of repairs.
Some residents said the water outage has meant taking showers at the homes of friends and family members, or doing without, and relying on bottled water provided by the water company, students in the Axtell Independent School District, Dr Pepper and relatives.
Several residents said they have grown weary of brown or foul-tasting water even when the supply is adequate, while others complain they never see their meters being read and have not received water bills in months, even years, and worry about the viability of Moore Water System.
“I’ve been out of water since Jan. 1, and this is not the first time,” said Sharon Kerr, 49, who lives in Axtell’s Beaver Lake subdivision. “It’s an ongoing situation that seems to be getting worse.”
A real estate agent and in good health, Kerr said she probably is better able to cope with the inconvenience than others, but she expressed concern for the many older residents and those who raise livestock.
“If I want to take a shower, I can jump in my car and go flying up to the Flying J, where I pay $12, or I can visit people I know in Groesbeck,” Kerr said. “But what about those without that flexibility?”
Nancy Cunningham, 30, who lives in the 600 block of Beaver Lake Road, said she has scant water pressure, and the brownish liquid that flows into her residence “smells like sewer.” Now she has no water at all.
“I have two children, one 4 years old and another 10 months old with major health problems,” she said. “I don’t want to have to worry about the kids taking baths, and I don’t want them getting sick.”
Cunningham said she did not want to appear overly critical of Larry Moore, the owner of Moore Water System.
“But I’ve never seen the meter checked, and I’ve gone three years without receiving a bill,” Cunningham said. “I literally walked to the man’s house to get my bill, and he told me his billing system was down. I’ve heard one excuse after the other, and I’m beyond frustrated.”
Moore, who was handing out bottled water Thursday to people who stopped by his place of business, said he shares in the aggravation.
“My wife and I are on the same water system, so I am well aware of how people feel, but I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I think people will notice improvement in the quality and taste of the water once these repairs are completed.”
Moore said Jurgensen Pump, of Valley Mills, using a camera, discovered a crack in the well shaft 1,700 feet underground. The flaw was allowing soil and silt to make their way into the well water, “making it appear brackish,” and fouling its taste, Moore said. Jurgensen was not equipped to repair the hole, so it called in reinforcements, he said.
“That’s a three-day trip for the crews and trucks from the West Coast, but so few companies have expertise in this kind of patching,” Moore said.
He said he did not recall the name of the subcontractor in California, and representatives of Jurgensen could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Once the crack is patched, crews will clean the well and install a new pump and motor to serve it, Moore said. They also will clean and chlorinate water tanks and lines and perform state-mandated testing.
Resident Anna DeLaCruz, 74, said by phone Thursday that Moore placed a notice on her door stating service should resume by Jan. 20.
“So we’re facing another week without water,” DeLaCruz said.
She said she uses a wheelchair to get around and underwent chemotherapy after a cancer diagnosis but now is in remission. She has experienced water outages “five or six times” over the years but gets by with help from a daughter and son-in-law who live in Axtell and a daughter in Hewitt “who brings me 15 gallons of water every three or four days,” DeLaCruz said.
“My dishes are piled up in the sink, and my pots are dirty,” she said. “But I get Meals on Wheels, and I can make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
Stuart Parsons confirmed Thursday he was approached by Moore about assisting with financing the well repairs and has agreed to lend him $30,000. Parsons said he had become aware of the problem from an Axtell resident employed at BSR Cable Park.
“I know Larry, go to church with Larry, and these other people in Axtell are my neighbors,” Parsons said. “The picture being painted by some on social media is that he is the devil, that he is not trying, but the man I know is not that man at all. For him to be a friend and for him to approach me asking for money, you know it was his last resort.”
Moore, meanwhile, acknowledged that some customers may not have received bills in the past six to 18 months because of computer problems that the installation of a new system may alleviate.
He said most customers pay $35 to $45 a month for water, and those rates have not increased in several years. Asked if he has the financial wherewithal to properly maintain and operate the water system, Moore said, “Everyone would like to have more money.”
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a statement Thursday saying Moore notified the TCEQ of a water outage Jan. 2 and that a notice to boil water was issued at that time.
The TCEQ regional staff has been in “continuous contact” with Moore and has started an investigation in response to five complaints made since the outage, TCEQ spokesman Brian McGovern said.
Axtell ISD Superintendent JR Proctor said the district continues to sponsor water drives and to line up community members to provide places for families, including students, to wash clothes and take showers.
“Even though the 85 families don’t all have students in school, we’re the largest organization in our community, and I take it as our responsibility to help in the time of need,” Proctor said by phone.