AUSTIN (KXAN) — Christina B. says she keeps at least 15 gallons of water in her apartment at all times.
“Fifteen gallons of water will maybe get me through two days,” she said.
Christina didn’t want to show her face or reveal her full name for fear of repercussions from management at Falls on Bull Creek.
She said water service goes out frequently there, the latest outage happening over the weekend.
“[This is the] pump that I rigged to wash dishes, shower,” she showed KXAN’s Tahera Rahman.
GVA Management is behind the property and said they found a broken main water line on Saturday, and several buildings were without water.
In a written statement to KXAN News, they also said they called plumbers “immediately” and bought water for residents.
“On June 11, it was discovered that a main water line had broken, and several buildings were without water. Our plumbers were called out and our team immediately purchased pallets of water for the residents and had portable toilets delivered to the property. We were in constant communication with our residents updating them with the progress of the repairs. The line was fixed by late Monday morning and as of 1:00pm the water had been restored. The water leak has caused some damage to our parking lot, which is being scheduled for repairs.”Toni Boiser, GVA Management
“Every time they fix a main pipe, another main pipe, right, breaks,” Christina said.
Austin Water said they’ve inspected reports of persistent water leaks seven times at Falls on Bull Creek so far this year.
“On each one of these instances, Austin Water personnel located the leak and determined that it was a private-side plumbing system issue,” said spokesperson Erik Luna.
Luna also said property management asked them to temporarily stop water service “so that private plumbers/apartment maintenance personnel could conduct construction, leak repairs or maintenance to the private-plumbing system.”
“Your month is like hell, you know,” said Deejay Vasquez, a former resident of Falls on Bull Creek.
Vasquez moved out a few months ago after a fire destroyed his apartment. He said he wasn’t even there at the time because the water had already been out for about two weeks.
“The pressure was like nowhere near like, you know, feasible and then my toilet wouldn’t flush and then the apartments across, their water wasn’t working at all,” he said, adding that he was staying with family, friends and his girlfriend.
Vasquez said that was around February.
KXAN asked GVA Management about all previous water service interruptions so far, this year. They have not yet responded.
Back in January, they told KXAN they found a leak Friday, Jan. 14 that stopped water service to all residents. They said on Monday, almost half the property’s water was restored and the rest was expected to be completed Sunday, Jan. 23.
They also added that they provided bottled water for neighbors, and gave them access to vacant units for showering.
Vasquez and Christina said they were able to adapt, but are concerned about the families that live in the apartments.
“You don’t want to go home and try to figure out, ‘Alright, where am I going to shower? How am I going to eat? You know… What am I going to put my food on? You know, like, how am I gonna go to the bathroom? How can I make sure my kids are showered?” Vasquez said.
KXAN checked in with the Austin Code Department, which said the Falls on Bull Creek has had 64 code violations since January.
They said they are aware that residents there have been experiencing water outages.
“There are currently several open cases that vary from different units as well as the common areas,” spokesperson Lucero Arechiga wrote in an email to KXAN. “Citations have also been written to the property owners for the various violations related to the water outages and other conditions verified by our inspector.”
She said so far, they’ve issued five citations.
Arechiga said those citations “are being scheduled to be heard in the administrative hearing process.”
She also said some complaints are from 311 calls while others are “self-initiated based on conditions found by the inspector responding to complaints.”
Austin Water said if anyone has persistent water issues their landlord or owner is not correcting, customers should call Austin 311 to put in an Austin Code service request so that the department can work with the complexes to make sure they repair as quickly as possible and come up to code.
The city says its safeguard program for tenants isn’t working
The City of Austin has something called the Repeat Offender Program for properties like this with several code violations.
The registration program includes annual fees and inspections and the goal is to make sure Austin renters are living in places with minimum health and safety standards.
But KXAN found that the Falls on Bull Creek nor GVA Management were on that list, and asked the code department why.
They said it does meet the criteria and they’ll be reviewing it this month.
“It appears this location meets criteria to be reviewed for ROP status. Locations are reviewed by the ROP committee each quarter, many considerations are part of that review such as timeline of the notice of violations issued, proper identification of the responsible party and timely follow up inspections that assure that progress is either occurring or nothing is being addressed. In addition if the owner has requested an extension of time to complete repairs.
This property is scheduled for the internal review this month.”Lucero Arechiga, Austin Code Department
In 2020, the Office of the City Auditor found that ROP isn’t meeting its goal. Auditors recommended the code department change the requirements for program registration and change the program name and fees.
The code department said to address those suggestions, it wants the public to weigh in on what should be changed.
The department said they are also meeting with stakeholder groups for feedback, and plans to bring program change recommendations to the city council in October.