A system failure caused several Venus residents to lose water Sunday. By Thursday, those same residents were still without it.
Thankfully, repairs are ongoing to replace the failed pump, piping, wiring and motor in one of two wells used by the Mauka water system.
This isn't the first time for those affected Sunday to be without running water. Nor is it the first time for the shutoff to come as a surprise.
Venus resident, Michelle Crow, stated she has been having low-pressure issues with the system since May and had gone for days without water.
“We have families out there that have no family or friends close. Some do not have the funds to do their laundry at a laundry mat," Crow wrote in an email to the Daily Light. "Many do not have running vehicles or have one vehicle, so while their spouse is at work, they are stuck."
When problems started to crop up, Crow documented the days her home was without water. These days include May 30, June 10, 11, 24, 27, and July 15. She noted there have been low-pressure issues throughout August, but the total loss of water started began Sunday.
Crow woke up at 4 a.m. Sunday to take a friend to the airport. At that time, she had water. It was no longer running when she returned about four hours later. Water service returned later in the day, for about 15 minutes, but has been out since that time.
“Many don’t understand how much not having water hurts. I have been filling up empty gallons of water to even be able to flush the toilet,” Crow said. “With a house of five people filling these gallons to flush is a job. You can’t cook, so we rely on eating fast food or heating something up in the microwave because dishes are out of the question.”
Crow stated communication with Mauka has also been difficult, whether that is to get information about outages or their bill.
Fellow Venus resident, Tasha Lee, shared Crow’s frustration about the service provided by Mauka.
“The problems started in May with water coming in and out. It has been hard to get a hold of them, and they have changed their office three times,” Lee said. “I have been a resident here for 18 years and it has been an ongoing issue.”
Lee stated when she has reached out to Mauka by phone she either has received a rude response from a staff member or has gotten an answering machine. She added she has not received any type of notification of a system break or notification to boil.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website, Mauka serves 1,023 residents and has 341 connections to its system. Since 2009, Mauka has had 21 individual violations from the TCEQ. Some of the violations are related to routine monitoring — major and minor — and public notice.
Butch Hardie, president of Texas Rain who manages the Mauka Water System, stated the age of the equipment led to the breakdown.
“The well service company could not get there until Tuesday morning. They evaluated that the whole well had to be replaced,” Hardie said. “They had to pull 900 feet of pipe out of the ground. They had to replace the pipe, the pump, the motor, and all of the wiring associated with that.”
Hardie stated the failure was due to the age of the equipment, which has been in use for more than 20 years. Repairs are estimated between $30,000 -$50,000.
While repairs are underway, Hardie stated water tankers have been used to keep storage tanks full to provide residents with water. The company has also worked with the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, and Johnson County Emergency Management to have bottled water available for residents.
Bottled water is available to residents at the Venus Fire Station at 101 W. Third Street. People can pick up water from 4-6 p.m. until it is all given out.
James Hopper, Venus ISD superintendent, stated the district has opened up the Venus Middle School to affected residents so they can use the showers in the locker rooms.
“This is a highly unfortunate situation. It came to our attention that we had students that were impacted we thought that the least we could do was to help these folks,” Hopper said. “We felt it was a moral obligation to help because the community is there for the school.”
The middle school competition gym showers and restroom facilities are available to those affect by the water outage from 6- 8 p.m. daily until water service is restored.
Hardie added, “Any water system is going to have leaks and issues during its lifetime because there are so many things that can happen."
He explained they work to notify all customers about system issues through its phone notification system, which was done in this instance. Boil notices were also set out. Notification is not done door to door.
“We are updating our phone system to having an answering service that will answer calls 24 hours a day,” Hardie said. “I can’t speak to some of the response people have received, but the staff is trained in customer service.”
Customers affected by the system repairs can contact Mauka Water at 817-579-8100.