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In Dallas' backyard, NTC brings clean water to a suffering community

The need for clean water is something many North Texans associate with the Third World or, closer to home, the colonias on the Texas-Mexico border. But in Dallas' own backyard, the impoverished community of Sand Branch did not have running water in February of this year.

For about 100 residents there, the well water they have to drink is polluted, and there is no sewer service. Some don't have electricity.

The North Texas Conference, working with Dallas County Commissioners, has stepped up to provide water to about 50 households west of Seagoville. The county will paid $7,812 to provide continuous refills of 5-gallon water tanks for the homes for two months. The NTC is providing the initial tanks and units.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins praised the NTC for its quick response to a request to help out.

Judge Jenkins told commissioners that "we asked all of our partners for assistance, and I am proud that it was the Methodists that stepped up. This is not the end of what we are doing with Sand Branch, let me make that clear, but a first step on the way to address the severe needs of the community."

Blogger Ben Sandifer writes on that he was stunned at the abject poverty of Sand Branch: "If it were on the Rio Grande, you could call it a colonia."

"When Rev. Bishir Hill received an email from Chief Doug Bass, county emergency manager, requesting help, we immediately replied yes," NTC Bishop Michael McKee, flanked by Dr. Larry George and the Rev. Marji Bishir Hill of the Center for Missional Outreach, told commissioners.

"We are not just going in doing this by ourselves ... to provide ways that families can have drinking water," Bishop McKee said. "We partnered with UMCOR, our disaster relief agency. They were glad to make this grant to enable us to help. We will keep working with Chief Bass and other partners in the Sand Branch community and meet this human need in the short term."

It is a stop-gap solution to a longtime problem for the community 14 miles from downtown Dallas. Running lines to the area is complicated by the fact that it lies in a floodplain, raising the cost into the millions because existing structures would have to be elevated or a levee built. Many residents took a county buyout in the early 2000s to move, a less costly solution. But the remaining residents consider Sand Branch their home and do not want to leave.

The well water wasn't always unsafe to drink in the community, which dates back 137 years and is made up of mostly older African-Americans. But for at least 30 years, it has been contaminated, possibly by waste from hog pens, junkyards or dumping.

As one resident told The Dallas Morning News, "We've been waiting on our blessing for a long time.

Sheron C. Patterson, Connection Editor, North Texas AC

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