County to provide sanitary water to those without

Published 4:33 pm Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Several families in western Dallas County still bathe and drink in unsanitary water.

That is a problem the County Commission and West Dallas County Water Authority are correcting.

The West Dallas Water Project is a plan to provide new service to about 200 homes, some of which do not have running water.

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Grants will cover almost three-fourths of the cost of the $4 million project. More than $1.5 million will come from a loan the West Dallas County Water Authority has taken out with the USDA.

“Down at Meredith Landing and River Oaks, both of those entities had access to water,” said Probate Judge Kim Ballard. “But, especially at River Oaks, it was questionable as to how good and safe it was. But many, many, many residents down there had no way to get it except to go some place and fill up a barrel and take it home with them.”

Several homes in the area are a mile or more apart, making continuous water access a challenge.

The commission approved expansion of the project to River Oaks and an area near Safford during its meeting earlier this week.

The first phase takes water access as far west as County Road 107 and Highway 66, close to the Wilcox County line. Phase II, a $3 million project the commission and water authority will address later this year, expands service to the Marengo County line.

A third phase could extend into Marengo County, but West Dallas Water Authority consultant Malloy Chandler said that project “is not on the drawing board” yet.

“The closest public water system is the Wilcox County system,” Chandler said. “The Marengo County system comes in from the south. The Thomaston system doesn’t come within 25 miles of this project. There really is no other system in the area.”

Chandler estimates the revenue from the new customers will cover the cost of the loan.

The expansion is four years in the making, with a few road bumps along the way.

The first hurdle was getting the residents behind the project, Ballard said. Many of them didn’t begin complaining until a water shortage of residents in north Dallas County several years ago.

“You have to sell it to the residents, you have to sell it to the USDA, you have to beg for grants vs. loans so you don’t affect your existing water customers’ rates,” Ballard said. “It’s like a balancing act to get it done. It’s a done deal, but folks are not drinking water out of the pipes yet.”