Wise Co. Residents Outraged By Water Rate Hike

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WISE COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – Thousands of people living around Lake Bridgeport in Wise County will start paying 66 percent more for water next month.

The West Wise Utility District says the higher bills are the only solution to a water quality issue that has plagued the area more than two years.

The district will use the money to design and build a new $13 million dollar water treatment facility.

Water from the current facility continues to produce chemical compounds, known to cause cancer if consumed over several decades.

The rate hike is substantial for an area populated with retirees, or people on fixed incomes looking for a lower cost of living away from Dallas-Fort Worth.

“They want to double the bill for water you shouldn’t drink and can’t drink,” said Daryl Norred, who moved out to the area more than 20 years ago. “They have known about these issues for at least a couple of years. They should have been proactive, they should have been planning.”

The utility district told CBS11 it had a new system in long-term plans, but it was never built.

Planning took on more urgency in late 2014, when the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found higher than acceptable levels of haloacetic acids and trihalomethanes in the water. The compounds are a byproduct of the chlorination process. Over decades, they can damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

Some residents said since the first notice, they started drinking bottled water.

The district looked into increased aeration, filtration, expansion and repairs of the current system. It was determined, however, that only a new plant in a new location was economically feasible.

“I think you’re looking at the American infrastructure crisis,” said Troy Hotchkiss, an engineering consultant hired by the district to find a solution. Hotchkiss said he expects to see more water systems go through similar struggles.

The new rates go into effect in May, with construction of a new treatment plant expected to be finished in early 2019.

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