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2013-01-24

BCRAGD fines well drillers

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) board of directors voted to levy fines and other penalties against five well drillers and pump installers associated with Pipe Creek Water Well LLC during their special meeting Thursday, Jan. 17.
Fined were licensed well driller Bryce Wallace, licensed pump installer Edward Basham, licensed well driller Rodger North, and licensed well driller Robert Rae Powell. Proposed fines against unlicensed well driller Peter Bennett were suspended.
The fines were levied through a resolution adopted by the board following a public hearing requested by the defendants held Thursday, Jan. 10. A sixth man, Glen Haskins, did not request a public hearing after receiving a Notice of Violation (NOV) from BCRAGD last year.
"It's our job to uphold the rules," said Director Karen Ripley, explaining the board's actions.
The fines were related to alleged violations of BCRAGD rules and regulations regarding water well drilling procedures and permits in Bandera County, specifically involving a well drilled on the property of John Hayes on Highway 173 South in 2011.
The drillers and installers were employed by the owner and manager of Pipe Creek Water Well LLC (PCWW), Robert Rae Powell.
As the company owner and manager ostensibly in charge of drilling the Hayes well, Powell was hit with a $9,500 fine for violating 12 of the district's rules. In addition to the fine, BCRAGD has revoked Powell's authorization to drill in Bandera County. The violations will be referred to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) for further enforcement actions. Powell's revoked authorization will be reviewed by the water district board in January 2014.
As the primary licensed well driller on the site, Wallace was fined $6,000 for the violations of 10 of the district's rules. His authorization to drill in Bandera County has been revoked for one year and the violations have been referred to TDLR.
Bennet, an employee of PCWW, had his $1,000 fine suspended on the condition that he receive no further NOVs for a period of one year. If he commits a violation, the entire fine will be due. Bennet's violations were referred to TDLR. Director Sid Gibson perhaps explained the leniency of the board on behalf of Bennet by saying, "He was merely a day laborer on this job."
Driller North was fined $1,500 for violating two of the district's rules. North had admitted to "babysitting" the well as a favor to Rae Powell allegedly when the primary licensed well driller was not available. A well log purportedly signed by North contained items of questionable veracity, according to BCRAGD General Manager David Mauk. The log was also allegedly signed by North, but the first name was misspelled.
Gibson said, "Mr. North was the one babysitting the well. It sounds like he just signed whatever."
Ripley added, "We want to send a message to those babysitting wells that there's a responsibility...it's not just a quick way to make a little extra money."
Pump installer Basham had $1,250 of his assessed fine suspended by the board on condition of no further violations for one year. The remaining $250 of his fine is due within 30 days. Basham's violations were referred to TDLR.
Ripley was the lone dissenter on the vote to suspend most of Basham's fine. "I feel like we're being too lenient. He didn't go back [to check on the job]," she said. "He cooperated [with the board] and I understand that's a strategy, and it's a good strategy."
Director Jerry Sides defended the leniency toward Basham by saying, "He did stand up and take responsibility."
At their regular quarterly meeting held Jan. 10, the BCRAGD board voted to issue additional NOVs to Powell, Wallace, and Basham regarding a well drilled on Mountain Creek Road in Pipe Creek in March of 2011. They also approved sending an NOV to licensed well driller Thomas Max Johnson for alleged violations on a well drilled on Rio Hondo Road in Tarpley in February of 2011. Both wells were contracted by PCWW.