Punkin Water Association ordered to find a solution by next month

Published 11:28 am Thursday, July 15, 2021

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley held — what he hopes to be — the last hearing about the Punkin Water Association’s water issues and gave an order to find a solution by August 1.

Before hearing the Punkin Water Association customers’ concerns with the quality of the water, Presley opened the meeting with his own comments and concerns about the number of complaints filed, the number of hearings about Punkin Water and the amount of time it has taken to fix the problems.

“Lingering issues continue to linger and cause problems,” said Presley. “What is the most frustrating to me is that with the items we continue to struggle on, things could be done.”

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Clients of PWA testified that they are unable to drink, bathe in or wash clothes with the water because it comes out of their faucets in different colors: brown, pink, purple, yellow or even green. One customer has replaced their ice maker, refrigerator and washing machine due to the water ruining the system.

Many frequently have to buy filters ranging from a moderately priced $40 filter to a $5000 in-ground filtration system just to use the water at home. 

Others have given up and spend tens or hundreds of dollars at their local stores to have drinking water.

Customers have also expressed discontent with real estate agents that have continued to sell houses on land where there is inadequate water quality.

Recent Oxford transplant and retiree Tom Sawyer said he feels like he’s being held hostage.

“(My wife and I) felt like we found the perfect city, the perfect neighborhood and the perfect house, but no one told us about Punkin Water,” said Sawyer.

“[The PSC is giving] them two weeks — til August 1— to find alternative sources of water,” said Presley. “If not we’re moving the connection to Oxford. I’ve tried to be extremely fair and (PWA has) made progress but we have got to move forward.”

PWA Attorney Mark Woods and other PWA board members revealed that PWA was losing 65% of the water they pump through meters and leaks. 

Additionally, 60 to 80 meters have been identified as potentially malfunctioning and in need of replacement. PWA currently has approximately 1,100 meters overall.

PWA Secretary Meagan McDonald, who joined PWA in October 2020, said the association has never been on a system when it came to book-keeping and that all financials were done by hand, so there is no way to calculate the profit loss.

“I have taken the time to place everything from January 1, 2020 until now into QuickBooks so that everything can be accessible,” said McDonald. 

The PSC will release an order giving PWA until August 1 to issue a solution to fix their issues with the water and until September 25, 2021 to find the leaks and account for the profit loss. 

If PWA does not issue a decision, then PSC will move forward and connect with Oxford to gain adequate and safe water.