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PUC stands by emergency order for Channel Oaks Water System

Channel Oaks subdivision near Marble Falls

The Public Utility Commission of Texas reaffirmed an emergency order for the Channel Oaks subdivision's water system on April 27. The commission also said system ownership must be determined by May 12. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

The Public Utility Commission of Texas reaffirmed an emergency order to ensure the Channel Oaks Water System provides clean and adequate water to its customers. During a public hearing on April 27, the state commission also said system ownership must be determined by May 12. Channel Oaks is a subdivision off of FM 2147 outside of Marble Falls.

The reaffirmation comes after complaints by subdivision residents of poor water quality and low pressure, which led to a months-long boil water notice issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to the subdivision’s 38 property owners.

Although the boil water notice was lifted on April 6 after a new water system operator was hired, the PUC stuck with the emergency order initially filed on Feb. 23 because trouble is still brewing.

“The circumstances that existed back in February remain on the ground today,” said Barksdale English, PUC director of Compliance and Enforcement. “There are still issues about adequate service and about making sure there’s safe and reliable water service to all the customers in the area.”

At the hearing, water system owner Mary Maxey told the commission the water quality changed for the better after she hired AJ Management Inc. on March 10 to operate the system.

“It did take a while to get someone online, but the water has been certified. It’s good. It’s clean,” Maxey told commissioners. “The pressure is good, and it’s operating in compliance with the way the PUC has requested.”

English told commissioners that, although the new operator has improved the situation, the PUC would still like to determine who actually owns the system. 

“We still have a serious concern about who is responsible for running this utility and who is managing the folks who are on the ground on a daily basis who make sure the water service is continuous and adequate,” he said.

Ownership of the water system has been in question since 1999, when Maxey’s father, Brian Maxey, died.

“There are questions about ownership and who’s responsible to do what and how and with what legal obligation they should be doing it,” English said. “It’s a concern and something that needs to be resolved. The customers are bearing the risk of the family’s indecision of who has to have responsibility for this system.”

Maxey explained her concerns with the May 12 deadline to determine ownership.

“I have stepped up and taken the responsibility because of my father, out of respect for him,” she said. “The name, the legal entity, is Brian Maxey d.b.a Channel Oaks Water System. In order to get that out of that name, it has to be a sale, transfer, and merger. I’ve talked to four different potential buyers, and they tell me that takes a year to accomplish.”

PUC Chairman Peter Lake explained to Maxey that a formal sale would be unnecessary. 

“What I’m hearing from staff is there is no requirement for a sale, transfer, merger, or a formal proceeding,” he said. “We just need names of the folks who have already stepped up and are already doing the work.”

The commission approved the reaffirmation of the emergency order along with the ownership determination clause by a 5-0 vote.