RV Park Residents Fear Water Shut Off, Seeping Sewage

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NEAR BROWNSVILLE – A group of diverse families living on Boca Chica Boulevard fears they won't have any water at their RV park.

They also want something to be done about seeping, raw sewage in their neighborhood.

Nancy Torres, a mother, says it was the last straw.

"You can’t use a restroom without it swamping outside,” she says.

Torres and many others came to Cameron County commissioners seeking relief this week.

The tenants of Rio RV Park, located in the outskirts of Brownsville, say they were given days’ notice that they would need to pay their landowner nearly double their space fee or else water will be shut off.

“Now he’s charging us $300,” says resident Gerry Beauchemin.

They showed CHANNEL 5 NEWS the conditions at the park, including bubbling up sewage that smells even in the rain.

"You see this pool right here?” says Beauchemin, "it reeks of sewer problem. I can smell it really bad right here.”

“I’m having to use this restroom because at my mom’s their sewer is flooded, so it can’t be used at all,” comments Torres.

"But the water is the most important thing. We can’t live without, you know, we have to have water," says Vicky Jensen.

A spokesperson for their water supplier, El Jardin Water Supply Corporation, agreed to speak with us off camera. He tells us they purchase the water from Brownsville Public Utility and confirms that the park’s landowner is delinquent by thousands of dollars.

He also tells us there are leaks to the potable water service that the owner didn't address before losing tens of thousands of gallons.

We’re told the landowner bought some time with their board by paying part of the bill. The payment meant an extension of service from Jan. 16, the first scheduled cut off, to Feb. 3.

Nevertheless, El Jardin still owes BPU. We're told if the money doesn't arrive, they will be issuing a 10-day notice of shutoff in February.

As for the sewage, we reached out to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In a written statement the company tells us in part:

“Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 366 authorizes the TCEQ y to designate a local governmental entity as an authorized agent for the implementation and enforcement of TCEQ on-site sewage facility rules in its area of jurisdiction.  Beginning in November, the TCEQ has provided technical assistance to the Cameron County Health Department regarding their jurisdiction and enforcement of the on-site sewage facility program rules and regulations at the RV park.”

We reached out to the Cameron County Health Department. They have not yet returned our call for comment.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS ultimately was able to speak with the landlord on the phone. He tells us there were theft and leaks resulting in a $22,000 water bill.

He says he is out of funds for the urgent repairs and that's why he says he sent letters asking for $300 with less than 30 days’ notice. He does say, though, he is in the process of selling the property to an undisclosed buyer.

"We filled the tubs so we could flush the toilets. You can live like that for maybe a week but you can’t live like that forever,” says Jensen.

Tenants say they’re unsure of what else they can do.

The water company spokesperson went on to explain that because there are open pipes in the park, they installed a backflow pump to prevent the facility from contaminating the rest of their water supply.

We're told the water company hasn’t shut off the water already or found a way to condemn the property because they do know it will impact the people living in about 40 trailers at the site.

The representatives for county commissioners say they've also contacted TCEQ.

State law requires landowners to maintain state and county health regulations for sewage systems.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS will continue to follow this developing situation.

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