Families living in a small enclave of mobile homes near Pecan Creek Elementary School have few viable options for running water after the well owner notified them that he is turning off the system.
Denton’s director of utilities, Ken Banks, laid out the options in a special neighborhood meeting Tuesday night. None of the options seemed viable for the dozen or so working-class families who live in Green Tree Estates on Swisher Road.
Ednna Guajardo said the families are all scared about what will happen if the water well owner shuts down the system on Nov. 15, as he has told the city he will.
“We’re all families. We have kids. We need water,” Guajardo said in Spanish.
The families don’t drink the water, but they do use it, she added. They filled a clear plastic water bottle to show city officials what the well water looks like. The turbid water was the color of a green tea soft drink.
The system owner, Don Roddy, attended the meeting, too, but declined to comment. County records show Roddy inherited the land, and ostensibly the water system, nearly 20 years ago. County records also show that while Roddy owns multiple mobile home lots in Green Tree Estates, many lots are also owned by others.
New neighborhoods have sprung up around the mobile home park. Roddy’s parcels have been for sale for about a year.
Banks told the Green Tree neighbors that the city and area landowners agreed to a service plan when the land was annexed into the city several years ago. But connecting the neighborhood to city water would still involve some cost to the landowners and those steps were never taken by Green Tree Estates, Banks said.
The city has three possible places where the neighborhood might still be able to access city water. However, Banks also said that the well water tank and pipes that distribute the water to homes is probably too old to work with a modern system.
In other words, simply hooking up a new supply line likely means that pipes throughout the neighborhood would burst from the higher water pressure.
Banks estimated the cost to bring a modern system to the neighborhood would exceed $500,000, and that would be with any easements donated to the city’s water utility.
The city cannot pay for the improvements because that would be considered a gift and not allowed under the charter, Banks said.
The city has asked Roddy, the water system owner, for more time to find a resolution, but Roddy has refused. The city turned to the Public Utility Commission, saying that Roddy should not be allowed to shut down the water system without at least a 120-day notice and asking the PUC to enforce that.
The PUC sent a representative to the meeting, but he made no public statement. So far, the PUC has maintained to the city that it has no authority to require Roddy to give the longer notice, Banks said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also made a site visit and reported to the city that the system has nine connections and serves 22 people.
But Guajardo and other Green Tree Estates neighbors disputed that figure, saying at least 50 men, women and children live in the neighborhood.
One attendee asked whether the city would allow a meter on a fire hydrant at Swisher Road, so that residents might be able to fill tanks in the interim.
Banks said the city would issue a fire hydrant meter, but it was unclear whether the neighborhood could make use of a system that would fill water buffalo tanks for individual families.
Dani Shaw, the city’s community development manager, offered to link residents to social services, saying there’s help for those who could be at risk of becoming homeless because of the problem.
But neighbors don’t want to leave, with many saying that it’s the middle of the school year and their kids are happy where they are.
Guajardo wondered if there are other groups that could help.
“It’s a problem that affects everyone,” she said.