Posted on October 15, 2012 at 5:38 PM
Monday, Oct 15 at 7:29 PM
STAPLES, TX -- The town of Staples, Texas, sits aside the San Marcos River, and that river provides the community’s 250 residents with some of its potable water.
But, the price of water just went up in Staples… by about 9,900% for some residents.
“Water is gold in Texas,” said resident Carol Wester. Wester said when her water company was bought out by Crystal Clear Water Supply 18 months ago, the company mailed residents a notice about the change.
What they didn’t send, Wester said, was the fine print—that on the day of sale, any inactive water meters or accounts with balances still on the books would face a hook-up charge.
Wester said, “The fee to reconnect the water went from 40 dollars to more than 4 thousand dollars per meter.”
Wester points to her water meter and shows the simple task required to remove a lock and turn the water valve. She has five inactive water meters on a nearby property, and to turn the spigots on would cost $20,000.
Her elderly neighbor is one of about two dozen other residents with inactive meters who are left wondering how to afford it all.
“It sounds like they’re making us pay again and again and again, every time they get a chance,” said Eileen Witten.
Down the street, an assisted living center was told instead of the meter it’s had for decades, it needed a commercial water meter.
The price: $5,000. But Crystal Clear hasn’t been too clear on what that buys.
LiveOak Living Community’s owner David Seaton said, “To me it has that “Judge-Roy-Bean-law-west-of-the-Pecos-type of feel to it, in the fact that there’s no way to resolve it. It’s truly a monopoly out here.”
KENS-5 attempted contacting Crystal Clear, and the co-op referred us to their attorney.
In a letter to one of its customers, Crystal Clear WSC's attorney Mark Zeppa said that the water company was “under no obligation” to tell customers about any closing date… or the consequences.
“When it comes to water, we truly have no alternative. We do not have groundwater here. So, we cannot drill wells,” said Wester.
Wester has contacted her state lawmakers, in an attempt to seek changes in the laws that govern water utilities. Currently, the TCEQ is the regulatory body that monitors these transactions.
Wester said the TCEQ is mainly set up to give environmental oversight and not really interested in water customer satisfaction.