State regulators this fall will hear the city of Waco’s legal complaint that the Prairie Hill Water Supply Corp. is illegally denying water service for a proposed city landfill site on the eastern edge of McLennan County while the yearslong permitting process unfolds.
The city filed the complaint in December with the Public Utility Commission of Texas against the small rural water supplier for not continuing standard water service to the tract of land at 4730 TK Parkway. The city argues that refusal is a violation of state law Prairie Hill responded that the city needs to provide more information about how much water the landfill would require if when, and if, it is complete.
“We were already aware from newspaper and television reports that Waco’s City Council had voted to place a landfill on the property,” Prairie Hill board member Linda Jordan said in direct testimony. “We believed that the request was not for standard service.”
Jordan said the city’s application for service, filed last year, is still pending.
“There was a problem because Waco changed the language of the application from the form that is provided,” Jordan said. “We hadn’t agreed to those changes. We also felt that our duties to our existing customers meant that we needed information about the demands that a landfill would place on the system.”
She said the city had deleted part of the application that gave Prairie Hill the right to place a water meter and pipe on the property and added a sentence stopping Prairie Hill from using any easements that would interfere with the city’s use of the land, as determined by the city.
The city is arguing future uses for the land are irrelevant, and the corporation is violating state law by not providing standard water service to the site. In direct testimony filed ahead of the hearing, Assistant City Manager Deidra Emerson said the city is requesting standard water service for practical purposes.
“Waco knew that there is no public water supply, restroom or gas station within miles of the land, and Waco felt that those people visiting the land need basic water available for drinking, for using a toilet and for other common uses of potable water that a person would normally need at a home,” Emerson said.
According to filings with the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the city requested standard water service for the property, but Prairie Hill General Manager Robert Mathis said the city would need to provide an engineering study and information about the water needs of the city’s active landfill off Highway 84 in the western half of the county.
“The board must consider if a hazardous condition will be created that could jeopardize the welfare of the members, if the water usage is too great to be handled by the existing pumping and/or distribution system, and if the expected water usage would reduce the amount of water and/or pressure available to current members thus jeopardizing the welfare of the members,” Mathis said in an email to City Attorney Jennifer Richie in August of last year.
In the same email, Mathis said the city would need to provide historical water use data on the city’s active landfill, projected water use for the new landfill, meter size, detailed plans for the property, sizes and quantity of all potential water trucks, and the site’s fire or emergency response plan.
The property’s previous owners were receiving standard water service, but Mathis told city employees the land’s water meters were removed August 7, the morning the city officially bought the land.
“PHWSC has denied service to the city of Waco, Texas, pursuant to its tariff, which states that the corporation may deny service where the applicant’s expected water usage is too great to be handled by existing pumping and/or distribution systems, or where applicant’s expected water usage would reduce the amount of water and/or pressure available to other members thus jeopardizing the welfare of the members/users of the corporation upon connection,” Prairie Hill wrote in its response to the complaint.
Robert Thurber, a professional engineer with KSA Engineers, which provides engineering services to Prairie Hill, said it would take months to determine whether Prairie Hill could support the landfill’s needs.
“Due to the age of the system and the size of the line that currently serves that site, I would have concerns,” Thurber said. “I don’t have adequate information to answer that question at this point in time.”