Families say they have to deal with brown, smelly water in new Conroe neighborhood

CONROE, Texas – When you buy a new home, you normally expect to have working electricity and running, clean water.

For some residents in the Deer Trail Estates in Conroe, they say they saw water issues the first day they moved in.

“We never had a reliable water source,” explains resident Arvey Reid.

Many families say they quickly noticed brown, foul-smelling water.

“We started seeing it in the laundry first and we started to see it was discoloring clothing,” said another resident, Ashley Chancey. “You would open the dishwasher and a foul stench would come out. We saw our appliances were turning brown, and we had to start using bleach in the toilets.”

Months passed and the brown water would come and go. Ashley says it would sometimes last a few hours but sometimes it would linger for days. “We started buying bottled water to cook dinner. We definitely don’t drink the water,” she added.

“It smelled almost brackish. Sometimes it was fishy, and that’s the worst because it lingers. It almost smells like pond water,” noted Casey Chancey. “This is what really troubles me, as a mom, to be standing there in front of a bathtub that is green and trying to decide if I should bathe my two children and take a risk that it could have some effect on their health or do I go without, and wipe them down, and that’s how we start our day? I feel as a mother that is never a position I should be put in if I should bathe my kids in a brand new home.”

Residents in the Deer Trail Estates have all expressed concerns collectively, sharing photos and videos of their experiences.

“We’ve come together as a team throughout this crisis,” noted Reid.

But a huge percentage of the homeowners chose to have filtration systems put in to ensure their water was okay.

For the Chanceys and others, spending thousands on a water system is not in the budget right now.

“I work my tail off to provide for my family and get us into a beautiful new home and it’s just a stain,” said Casey.

“I feel like when we have invested in so much and of course our money into a brand new home. It really dampens the excitement when you have something that’s an issue every day,” explained Ashley. “It’s just a mess and a headache. I don’t feel in such a new community we should be dealing with this.”

There were multiple investigations into the Deer Trail Water District by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The first investigation in 2021 concluded that the Deer Trails Water District meets the definition of an active community PWS and no violations were issued.

Below is an explanation from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:

The samples were collected by the entity and were reviewed by the investigator to evaluate potential causes of colored water in the system. There are National Secondary Drinking Water Standards designated for iron and manganese. These standards are guidelines set forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to assist public water systems (PWSs) in managing their drinking water for aesthetic concerns (ex., color, taste, or odor) but are not used for determining health effects.

Color in drinking water can be caused by several issues, one of which can be sediment and/or in many cases iron and manganese. Flushing is conducted to aid in the removal of older standing water and helps ensure that there is less chance of water stagnating and potentially causing water quality issues, such as discoloration. During investigations conducted by the TCEQ, flushing records may be reviewed to determine compliance with flushing requirements.

Citizens concerned with the quality of water being supplied by their PWS may contact their PWS and review the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). The CCR is a document that provides consumers information about the quality of drinking water in a format that is intended to be user friendly. The CCR summarizes information that the water system collects to comply with federal and state (TCEQ) regulations. It includes information about the source(s) of water used (i.e., rivers, lakes, reservoirs, or aquifers), chemical contaminants, bacteriological contaminants, compliance with drinking water rules, educational health information, water system contact information and public participation opportunities. The TCEQ requires every community PWS to generate and make available a CCR to their customers by July 1 of every year, 30 TAC 290.271(a), which includes information from the previous calendar year. This report is also known as an annual water quality report or drinking water quality report. Additionally, if a citizen is concerned about their PWS operating out of compliance, they can make a complaint with the TCEQ by using the online form at TCEQ.Texas.gov or by calling toll-free at (888) 777-3186.

How the TCEQ Handles Environmental Complaints - Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Track Status of Complaints (WACI Tracker) - Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Developer and water district owner Galen Dru Kahlenhurg provided the following statement:

“We would be glad to show you our system and water quality. We continually meet and exceed TCEQ water quality requirements at Deer Trail Estates and understand and respond to residents’ concerns about water quality.We request that you please schedule a visit in writing and we will schedule an operator to accompany you and show you our system.In the interim, please do not open any valves or touch any equipment, per TCEQ only a licensed operator with the system may open valves or fire hydrants, or adjust equipment.

We have seen issues where residents have installed aftermarket filtration systems that are being improperly maintained, causing pressure drops and smells in their water heaters. Owners of such systems may need to investigate proper maintenance, which includes periodic flushing and changing of filters. We do flush the water system regularly and verify clarity. We continue to review procedures and stay up to date on the latest regulations to maintain a quality water supply. On two occasions we reviewed comments on the residents Facebook page and were at the resident’s homes within 15 minutes from when the complaint was posted and found no issues. One of the residents refused to let us test. We do have a phone number and an email where customers may call and leave messages reporting issues like clarity and smell issues and we are very responsive to complaints left this way.

We do not run or receive complaints directly from the Facebook page mentioned because it is run by the residents not by Deer trail Water District, we just happened to be looking at the page when the complaints came in. We have only received one recent complaint about clarity and smell through our normal channels and when we investigated our sample was perfectly clear and had no detectable smell.”

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