Approximately 138 Pulaski County residents have been facing unsafe drinking water since 2014, according to the Public Service Commission.

Approximately 138 Pulaski County residents have been facing unsafe drinking water since 2014, according to the Public Service Commission.
Homeowners in the Ridge Creek subdivision have been boiling their water, with 15 wells under a boil advisory, while another remains on a boil order mandated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
    The water and sewer systems of Ridge Creek have been under scrutiny for some months. On June 27, Edwin Martinez, a tenant of the Ridge Creek Subdivision, posted publicly on Facebook that in July of 2014, the Missouri Public Service Commision (MPSC) filed a complaint against Ridge Creek Development, alleging “Ridge Creek Development failed to provide safe and adequate service, and the company does not engage in water quality testing or treatment to ensure its safety for human consumption.”
In May of 2017, the MPSC  appointed an interim legal receiver, Terry Jarrett, to assume control and responsibility for the day-to-day water operations of the Ridge Creek Water Company and Ridge Creek Development. Jarrett’s immediate duty was to “protect the public from the threat of unsafe and inadequate water service,” according to a release issued at the time by the MPSC. The petition to appoint Jarrett as receiver was filed by Public Service Commision staff.
    Ridge Creek residents recently received communication notifying them of the most recent boil advisory taking effect on Wednesday, July 15.
    The boil order was issued due to contamination in several of the subdivision’s wells. Each of the wells supply water to multiple homes. The cause of the contamination is said to be the current water and sewer system put in place by the developers of the Ridge Creek Subdivision.
    Zach Shepard, Operations Manager for Pulaski County Sewer District 1, said the sewer district stance on this issue is that the subdivision was not constructed to their standards, and the development currently lies outside of their jurisdiction. For them to come in and take control of the problem would require the consent of the developers and a decent amount of funds.
    “As the district, we’d love to get in there and get it up to standard, but it’s a very costly venture for us,” Shepard explained.
    Pulaski County Assessor Don Mayhew said the development is currently using a STEP model sewer treatment system, which according to Mayhew, accounts for the bulk of the problem.
    “Of the different varieties of wastewater collections..the STEP system is the bottom of that rung,” he said. “It’s even lower than an on-site system. You would only use a STEP system as a last resort.”   
Mayhew explained that using a STEP system is usually reserved when a development is too far away from what he called a public owned treatment works. However in this case, Mayhew said Ridge Creek “wasn’t too far” from either Waynesville or St. Robert to use a different, more effective method.
“They had a lot of better options,” he said.
The Ridge Creek subdivision currently connects multiple houses to the same well, often three homes sharing the same well, which then connect to an aquifer underground.
“It’s allowable to drill one well to supply three homes,” said Mayhew, “but it’s certainly not recommended. In a development as dense as that one is, you would not recommend that...because of the potential for contaminated water.”
The wells utilized by the community are classified as domestic wells, those with access to an aquifer but are not sealed off from surface water. Mayhew explained that the more holes that are drilled, the higher the chances are of contamination.
“Domestic wells are a necessity in the rural area, absolutely,” he said. “But given another choice, in a development as dense as this one, you would do something different.”
Mayhew explained there were other options available to developers that would not have been financially burdensome to install.
“There were a lot of choices out there that were ignored, that would have been a better solution for that development,” he said.
Zach Shephard explained the Sewer District is looking into different avenues to help out the residents of Ridge Creek.
“It’s not the homeowner’s fault,” Shephard said. “They’re the ones suffering.”
According to their filings, Ridge Creek has incurred several expenses to due to replacing equipment and bringing the company in compliance with state regulations. Because of this, residents of Ridge Creek are also facing an increase of their water bill each month. According to a release issued by the MPSC, an agreement between the MPSC and Ridge Creek will allow the company to increase their annual water operating revenues by approximately $52,925,
The release states a residential water customer using 3000 gallons of water a month receives an average bill of approximately $24.68. The new order will increase this amount to approximately $48.92 per month.
The Daily Guide would like to speak to residents about this issue. If you would like to tell your story, please contact 573-336-3711.