Some Cameron Co. Residents Misusing Non-Potable Water
BOCA CHICA VILLAGE – The Texas Commission on Environmental Equality and Cameron County are re-evaluating water delivery to people living in Boca Chica Village.
Those who live in the area are receiving non-potable water. It’s gone on for at least two decades.
Non-potable water is supposed to be used for flushing toilets and washing laundry. It isn’t for consumption.
The small community gets its water in a unique way.
“For as long as I’ve known the county has been hauling water out there, the public works department has,” Cameron County Commissioner Sofia Benavides said.
Benavides said public work tanker trucks transport water supplied by the Public Utilities Board to the homes in Boca Chica Village.
The trucks aren’t necessarily the correct transport trucks.
“Yes, now that that’s coming to light… this is non-potable water. So I imagine they have some way of maybe boiling it or whatever they use it for. I have no idea but it’s not drinking water,” she said.
People in Boca Chica Village pay PUB nearly $15 a month for non-potable water.
“The county is not in the water business and I think you will find this is a unique situation,” Benavides said.
She said it was supposed to be a temporary fix. It’s an issue that wasn’t addressed over the years.
“What I have is what is used to take the water out there, to haul it out there,” Benavides said.
What the people in Boca Chica Village were receiving was not suitable for consumption.
“I know there’s one company in the Rio Grande Valley that has the proper equipment to haul water,” Benavides said.
TCEQ said non-potable water is only approved for washing clothes and using it for toilet water. Non-potable water is recycled which makes it inappropriate for human consumption. A variety of bacteria and organisms live in untreated water.
Many people live in Boca Chica Village said they use the water for cleaning their dishes, washing their clothes, even use it to bathe and one person said they know of neighbors who drank it.
They said every month they add bleach to their water tanks to treat the water.
“We know it’s non-potable water and we have absolutely no problem with that,” Terry Heaton said.
National Sanitation Foundation said chlorine treatment alone will not remove all the types of viruses commonly transmitted by water.
Heaton lived in the area for over a decade. He said his biggest concern isn’t the condition of the water.
“I am really afraid if we push the county for anything better than what we have we’re going to lose it. We’re gonna have nothing and that you just can’t live without water,” he said.
Heaton is afraid, along with many others, will be left without water. No other water supply is in sight.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS asked Benavides what solution she foresees.
“I’m not sure but if TCEQ will eventually come in and say, ‘Well you know you’ll have to find another way, you’re going to have to find another way,’” she said.
Benavides said the county will approach that obstacle if and when the time comes.
We reached out TCEQ and asked if they were aware of the situation. Andrew Kees said the agency is not aware. They encourage people to report any environmental concerns they may have to the Harlingen office at (956) 425-6010.