CARD Still Opposes Aqua Texas
Attend the City Council Meeting|
Bring Friends and Neighbors
Tell City Council:
"ONE MORE TIME, NO TO AQUA TEXAS!"
6:00 pm, Thursday, June 21, 2018
Wimberley City Hall, 221 Stillwater Dr
The Agenda for the June 21 City Council meeting includes Item 11.M, "Discuss and consider possible action regarding options and alternatives to the wastewater treatment facility."
One action Council could take is a vote to end its contract with Black Castle, the contractor for the Wastewater Treatment Plant (not the collection system). Or they might simply extend the hold on the Black Castle contract another 30 to 60 days. In either case, based on Mayor Susan Jaggers' presentation at the June 7 Town Hall meeting, indications are that such a vote will begin the process of turning over the Sewer project to Aqua Texas.
Please attend the meeting and let the City Council know you are opposed to Aqua Texas. Arrive before 6:00 pm to sign up to speak on Agenda Item 11.M. You will have 3 minutes to address the Council just before members take up this item for discussion and possible action, and Council may ask questions about your comments.
This item is scheduled near the end of a very long agenda. Given the interest in the wastewater treatment system (regardless of which "option" you prefer), one possible way to interpret this scheduling is that perhaps the Council is hoping to take up this topic after most people have left the meeting.
If you have to leave before City Council gets to this item, you can still tell Council you are opposed to Aqua Texas. Arrive before 6:00 pm and sign up to deliver a 3-minute comment during the Citizens Communications period at the beginning of the meeting.
For more information on how Aqua Texas has performed here in Central Texas, see the following article. You can also find good information about why Aqua Texas is bad for Wimberley's clean creeks and river at the Wimberley Citizens for NO AQUA TEXAS website. This new grassroots group of Wimberley and Wimberley Valley residents are opposed to Aqua Texas taking over the City's wastewater treatment system.
Aqua Texas (AT) Central Texas Performance Review
Aqua Texas is a private water utility company serving 186,000 people in Texas - 18 million gallons of water daily through 375 water systems. Aqua Texas also offers wastewater treatment with 57 wastewater treatment plants across the state.
What kind of track record does AT have in serving those communities? Here are some examples from places near Wimberley.
Rate Hikes with Little Customer Recourse
After a proposed rate increase announced in 2004, Woodcreek residents formed a coalition and joined with 32 other communities across the state of Texas to protest a significant AT rate increase. The group actually won their court case - only because Houston joined their side with its powerful lawyers - giving them the right to negotiate with AT. Aqua began settling individually with each small community thus slowly weakening the groups' effectiveness. Woodcreek fought on, but in the end AT out-lawyered and out-moneyed them. Woodcreek's 787 residents were forced to simply give up and settle for the best deal they could get at the time. Ultimately, all Texas customers paid AT's legal bills. According to Texas law, private water companies are entitled to recover the cost of the ratemaking process through customer billings. In 2007, Aqua America (Aqua Texas' parent company) wrapped up the 3-year rate increase battle and tacked on the $2.5 million-plus legal and consulting costs to Texas customer bills. (From articles in 2004-2007 editions of the Wimberley View.)
From 2010 to 2014, AT operated the City of Kyle's wastewater treatment plant. During that time, a series of illicit discharges dumped well over one million gallons of untreated or partially treated wastewater into Plum Creek, the result of operational failures at the treatment facility. In May 2015, the City Council of the City of Kyle voted to take back its wastewater treatment plant from AT - a hard-fought battle that Kyle eventually won, partly thanks to being a city much larger than Wimberley - with much more money for legal fees. (Kyle Votes to Purchase Wastewater Treatment Plant by Moses Leos III, May 22, 2015)
According to TCEQ records, AT's Burnet County wastewater treatment plant was cited multiple times for releasing improperly treated effluent into Lake LBJ, twice in 2011 and another time in 2014. Even though these were recurring violations, AT was able to use its influence to get the TCEQ-imposed fines significantly reduced. (For environmental violators, state often cuts deals by David Barer and Robert Maxwell, August 9, 2016)
Well over five years ago, when excessive amounts of water were pumped but lost before reaching AT customers in Woodcreek and Woodcreek North, the company agreed to spend $5 million dollars over a five year period to fix its failing infrastructure. While it's not clear how far AT got in the project, by some estimates about 1/2 way, the company clearly did not complete the project within the promised timeframe. More recently, when AT was faced with penalties for pumping that couldn't be accounted for based on customer usage, it threatened to sue the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District which was forced to back off, lacking financial resources for a protracted legal battle with the corporate giant.
Bottom Line - Reading these and other stories, one wonders why any city would consider talking about the possibility of negotiating with an entity with a long track record of using its corporate muscle in ways small communities find hard to combat.
Attend the Thursday city council meeting and bring along like-minded friends and neighbors. If you can't attend, send an e-mail to the mayor and council to let them know you are opposed to Aqua Texas. Here are the addresses to copy and paste into a single email:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- CARD Steering Committee
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