Residents in a rural area of Nueces County may soon be the beneficiaries of a project that could bring them clean drinking water.

Nueces County Purchasing Agent Elsa Saenz was given the authority last week to publish a notice for bids for the construction of a water distribution system for San Petronilla Estates 2. The area is located on County Road 63, just outside Petronilla in rural Nueces County.

A $563,000 grant awarded to the county in 2006 from the Office of Rural Community Affairs will be used to fund the project, which will take place in two parts, said Grants Administrator Roxie Hunt.

The first phase will include installing new pipes to the area that will carry water to about 100 residents in the area. Presently, those residents are reliant on well water for their drinking water, which is not treated by a water treatment plant like most urban areas.

The second phase will include the installation of a line needed to integrate the new lines into Violet Water Supply's system.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Betty Jean Longoria, whose precinct includes San Petronilla Estates 2, said the danger to residents comes when rains occur and flooding conditions arise. Because most of the households in rural areas also rely on underground septic systems for waste disposal, sometimes the drinking water can become contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria.

"I feel real good because we're going to finally address some of the issues they have out there," Longoria said, adding that flush valves will also be installed to help emergency crews in case of fire. These valves are the equivalent of fire hydrants for rural communities.

"It's a great project," Longoria said.

The most well-known of that coliform bacteria class is E. coli bacteria, which can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach pain, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of summer, will only be for water lines to be installed. Waste disposal lines will not be included, but may be looked at in the future, county officials said.

"Sewage would be much more expensive and a whole new project," Hunt said.

Violet Water Supply will incorporate the new lines into the water company's existing water lines after the county is done with its project. The utility's work will be paid for through a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Violet Water Supply, however, was still waiting on an official award contract from the USDA as of Monday.