Airline District residents met last Thursday night, May 8 at Carroll Academy on Gulf Bank, to hear a presentation by Melissa Hamous, a senior planner with the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department. This was the third and final meeting in a process that has developed a plan for new water and sewer services in the Airline District area. As explained by Hamous, this plan is necessary before funding for engineering and construction of a system can take place. She said that the plan is a 30 year study, but emphasized that the search for funds is a current, ongoing process that has already resulted in construction of new water and sewer lines in two areas of East Aldine, as an example of what can be accomplished.
Hamous said that she could forsee the design work for an area taking 3 to 4 years, and construction and completion in about 4 to 5 years, for any area that would be designated as the first pilot project area, as in East Aldine.
As part of the presentation, Hamous emphasized that many wells are contaminated, and homeowners should test their well water for purity. To aid in this, she passed out bottles and instructions on how to get the test done. More information is available from the Harris County Health Department at 713-439-6260.
The audience numbered about 150, mostly homeowners in the district. Although the discussion was mostly about the water and sewer plans, other topics brought up for discussion included junk yards, annexation, sidewalks, subsidence and Metro rail plans for the North Corridor. Most of these were deferred, since the meeting was primarily about infrastructure planning.
In the detailed presentation, Hamous pointed out that an arrangement had been made with the City of Houston, to take over all water and sewer lines that are constructed, and to provide services to the homes at the current city rate. This is expected to be about $50 per month as projected today. She emphasized that no MUD district would be created, and homeowners would become customers of the City of Houston water department.
As an added incentive, the hook-up costs of switching from well and septic systems to city systems would be absorbed by the Airline District, with no additional expense to the homeowners.
Most of the audience acknowledged that their systems had a limited life, perhaps only 25 years for a septic system, Hamous said. Even with correct maintenance, they eventually age to the point of needing replaced. One audience member said she had priced this replacement cost at $9000 for her homes septic system.
Hamous said that the switch to a new system would be voluntary, but with Airline District paying for the disconnect/connect, which is valued at many thousands of dollars, it only made sense to change to a new system.
Some objections were heard from the audience, because the county will require that old systems be entirely abandoned. Some homeowners wanted to continue to use their wells for yard and garden watering, but Hamous explained that this could not be allowed, if a new city system was on the property, because cross contamination is possible and the city could not risk this. The only cost to the homeowner for a connection would be the water department deposit for new customers, now $100, refundable after a year.
However, this new infrastructure would only be available to single family houses at this rate, she said. Apartments, mobile home parks, and businesses would not be able to connect without paying normal fees to the city for a commercial hook-up. She said that the state TCEQ has a small business division that might be willing to cover costs for some of these types of installations.
Hamous said that preliminary information from the study indicated the extent of the problem, as follows:
Septic overflow has occured in 477 reported cases, or citations, since 1991.
Half of the properties in the study have private sewers, and just under half have private water wells.
About 1 of every 8, or 12% of the septic systems, are failing and this rate will increase with time.
In the public discussion, it was noted that septic systems do not function well in the soil that Harris County has. There is too much clay for good absorption to occur.
The Airline Improvement District (AID) is receiving a grant from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) for a Water and Wastewater Planning Study to determine the economic feasibility of alternatives to replace failing septic systems and provide a potable water supply to the Districts residents and business. The state grant is for $125,000.
For more information and updates on studies and meetings, Teri Koerth suggested checking with the district website at www.airlinedistrict.org, and notices in the Northeast News.