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2013-01-03

BCRAGD hearing set regarding PC Water Well charges

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Bandera County River Authority will hold a hearing on alleged violations of the district's rules and regulations filed last year against Pipe Creek Water Well, its owner and five employees during the board's first quarterly meeting of the year, Thursday, Jan. 10, at 9 am at BCRAGD's headquarters at 440 FM 3240 in Bandera. In addition to citing and fining the six men, BCRAGD referred the situation to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
The BCRAGD board voted to approve sending Notices of Violation (NOV) to Pipe Creek Water Well owner Robert Rae Powell, licensed well driller Bryce Wallace, unlicensed well driller Glen Haskins, unlicensed well driller Peter Bennett, water well pump installer Edward Basham, and licensed water well driller Rodger North during their quarterly meeting held Oct. 4, 2012.
The river authority's rules give each of the men served with NOVs an opportunity to appear before the BCRAGD board for a hearing on the charges. That hearing will be held next week.
The six men are charged with numerous violations related to a well drilled for John Hayes on his property off of Highway 173 South.
The complaint
According to BCRAGD documents, Hayes complained to the river authority, which oversees water wells in Bandera County via the issuing of permits and inspections. Hayes said Pipe Creek Water Well had drilled a well for him that was partially funded by USDA-NRCS to provide water for livestock. Hayes said the well had never performed and he had been told by the well drilling company that it had collapsed due to a lighting strike. The pump had not been retrieved and remained in the collapsed well.
An examination of the well log by BCRAGD indicated the driller had drilled into the Lower Trinity Aquifer. Such wells must be completed according to the district's rules and regulations, to prevent the commingling of waters from the Middle and Lower Trinity.
An inspection of the well site by BCRAGD staff showed no indication of a lightning strike. A camera lowered into the hole showed only 23 feet of casing in the well although the well log indicated there was 1,050 feet of casing. BCRAGD documents state, "The well bore collapsed because it was either not cased or it was improperly cased, not because it was struck by lightning."
During its investigation, BCRAGD also found numerous discrepancies regarding the licenses held by the drilling company's owner, Powell, and some of his employees. Powell was found to hold only a water well driller apprentice license. The drilling rig on the site displayed the license of the company's previous owner, who had not been associated with the business for years. According to BCRAGD documents, Powell has obtained his water well driller license since these incidents occurred.
BCRAGD worked with the company to arrange to properly plug the first well and to begin work on a replacement well for Hayes. In both activities, new violations of the district's rules and regulations allegedly occurred, including unlicensed drillers drilling the replacement well.
Fines assessed
In addition to passing on the alleged violations to the TDLR, BCRAGD's board assessed all six with significant fines.
A fine of $9,500 for 16 violations was assessed against Powell, the owner of the company, and the board revoked his authorization to drill in Bandera County.
Wallace was assessed a fine of $6,000 and had his authorization to drill in Bandera County revoked. He is charged with 10 violations.
Haskins and Bennett were assessed fines of $1,000 each and had their authorization revoked. They were each cited for two violations.
Pump installer Basham was assessed a fine of $1,500 for two violations.
North was also assessed a fine of $1,500, for three violations.
According to BCRAGD documents filed with TDLR, "Wallace was the individual who drilled the original Hayes well.... An investigation conducted by the District could only verify that the well was cased to 23 feet, not the 1,050 feet indicated in the well report. Nearly all of the data in the well report is either blatantly false or highly suspect. The entire well report might very well be a complete fabrication."
The violations include, among others, failure to properly case a well, allowing commingling of water from different levels of the aquifers under Bandera County, allowing bad water to flow into good water, improper sizing of the bore hole, failure to case to the total depth of the well, lack of authorization and lack of providing advance notice to BCRAGD before performing certain activities