NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The City of Nacogdoches is protesting an alarming finding by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Contract inspectors for the state reported elevated levels of a "byproduct of chlorine" in two separate tests, one for a well and another for Lake Nacogdoches.
According to a press release, there is some scientific evidence that suggests higher than acceptable levels of of trihalomethanes, or THMs, may present a health risk to pregnant women, babies, and women who may become pregnant.
"By law we are required to share test results and the risks of THMs with the public," said City Engineer Steve Bartlett. "However, our second set of test results lead us to believe the original tests by TCEQ were inaccurate as these levels are reasonably unachievable."
TCEQ officials did the lake water test at Westward Drive, and the well water test was conducted at Woden Road The tested sites yielded results that were just over 250 parts per billion of THMs, which significantly exceeded the EPA's maximum contaminant level of 80 parts per billion.
THMs are the byproducts of chlorine and organic material in the water, the press release stated. Chlorine is essential for producing safe drinking water, and as a result, THMs are always present in small quantities.
"Immediately after TCEQ notified the City about these alleged exceedances, we had an independent laboratory collect new samples at the same locations and test for THMs," Bartlett said. "Both locations showed significantly lower levels of THMs, well below the TCEQ's test results, and the maximum allowable levels allowed by the EPA."
According to the press release, the tests done by the independent laboratory showed that the TMH level was 41 parts per billion at Westward Drive and 16 parts per billion at Woden Road.
"These results also mirror past tests history at these locations by TCEQ," the press release stated. "The City of Nacogdoches has never had exceedances of THM in the past. Even more unusual was the fact that the Lake water test (Westward Drive site) and the well water test (Woden Road site) had nearly identical values."
The press release went on to say that would "normally be an extremely unlikely coincidence" because the test samples were from two different water sources and are treated at two different plants, using different processes.
State law requires that City of Nacogdoches prepare written notices for each water customer using TCEQ language. The notices will be sent out with the next round of water bills, and the notices informing water customers of the elevated THM levels each quarter until the TCEQ retracts their test results or the city's running average falls below the EPA's maximum contaminant level.
"It is important to note that although these notices are going to all water consumers, our water supply is safe to drink and citizens do not need to filter, boil or treat their water," said Nacogdoches City Manager Jim Jeffers.
According to the press release, City of Nacogdoches employees will continue to perform periodic testing for THMs. They will also increase the frequency of line flushing.
A fact sheet stated that the City of Nacogdoches will also be adding extra activated carbon to the lake to help absorb any possible organic material.
It was previously reported that other city water corporations like Diboll and Woden have received similar reports from TCEQ and are also protesting them, based on information provided by Bartlett. Since that report a TCEQ spokesperson provided this new information.
"TCEQ contacted the City of Diboll on October 26, 2016 to discuss their trihalomethane concerns as stated in the KTRE story. Based on TCEQ's Water Supply Division data, the city has not had any TTHM maximum contaminant level violations since second quarter of 2015," the e-mail from Andrew Morrow, a spokesman for TCEQ, stated. "The most recent trihalomethane results, collected on September 9, 2016 were 0.0659 mg/L and 0.0641 mg/L which are below the maximum contaminant level of .080 mg/L. The city told TCEQ that they had no concerns about their TTHM levels at this time."
Morrow also said that TCEQ officials contacted the Woden Water Supply Corporation on Oct. 27, 2016. He added that Jimmie Lansgston, the manager of Woden WSC stated he initially misread his total trihalomethane results while speaking to the City of Nacogdoches and believed they were higher than normal. Mr. Langston later spoke to Phyllis Brown with Communities Unlimited who assisted him with the interpretation of the results which were 0.001 mg/L for total trihalomethanes. Morrow said.
"The maximum contaminant level for total trihalomethanes is 0.080 mg/L. The WSC has an emergency interconnect with City of Nacogdoches but has not had to use the water for at least five years," Morrow said in the e-mail. "The WSC has never had any total trihalomethane maximum contaminant level violations and has never had any elevated levels."
It may be several months before the state agency addresses the water corporation's concerns.