Legislature studies substandard housing, utilities for additional funding

Bailey testifies on Aldine’s water & sewers

State Representative Kevin Bailey testified before the County Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives last week. The Committee is involved in an interim study of substandard housing and the need to extend opportunities for grant money to areas beyond the border.

“We have a serious public health crisis in the unincorporated areas of Harris County. There are over 55,000 homes in Harris County that operate with private water wells and septic tanks,” Bailey told the committee.

“Not all are polluted, especially in the rural areas the water wells are fine and the septic systems can work. But, we have had over development and congested subdivisions in some areas where there are so many septic tanks that the sewerage is flowing into the water wells. The Harris County Public Health Department has said that some of these people are literally drinking their own sewerage.”

Rep. Bailey went on to tell the committee, “We have made some significant progress. In 2001, I was able to pass a bill creating the Aldine Community Improvement District which includes many of these neighborhoods that have problems. In 2002 the district received a planning grant from the Texas Water Development Board to begin the planning process for public water and sewer systems in the area and to begin to catalog how many neighborhoods there were in need of services.” Bailey also stated that Harris County officials have been very supportive of the Districts efforts.

He went on to tell them that there are 4,619 individual septic systems in the Aldine Improvement District study area including 1,385 of the systems that are failing and 2,401 of the systems are on lots that are too small or otherwise unsuitable for a septic system.

The lots are too small for replacement on-site sewerage systems, and financial resources are limited at best.Because many of the lots are unsuitable for on-site septic systems, the only viable option for the neighborhood is to connect to a wastewater plant.

Bailey continued, “So, we are beginning to accomplish some things, but the engineers are estimating anywhere from 75 to 100 million minimum to put water and sewer into the areas with the greatest need. Many of these communities are so poor that they cannot pay back loans in the water rates so we need money for construction or money to assist in paying back construction.”

The committee will be presenting a report to the full House of Representatives by the end of the year and will be making recommendations on needed legislation.