Arsenic In Texas Water: Is This Like Flint?

March 15, 2016 | By Garrett Montgomery More

Arsenic in Texas’ water? Is this a Flint-like crisis looming? According to an environmental group, many communities in Texas have a high level of arsenic in their drinking water, and the government has taken no concrete action to resolve the matter.

Arsenic in Texas water

Arsenic has been found in Texas water, according to a lengthy report published by the Environmental Integrity Project. The Environmental Integrity Project, (also known as EIP), is a Washington, D.C.-based environmental nonprofit organization that was founded in 2002 by Eric V. Schaeffer and Michele Merkel to “advocate for more effective enforcement of environmental laws.”

The lengthy and disturbing report by the EIP revealed that after going through 10 years of data, they have found that for the past two years, more than 51,000 people in 65 communities have been exposed to contaminated drinking water.

The organization said that residents of McLennan, Hill, Wallace Pack Unit College Station, El Paso, Gaines, Lynn Houston, along with numerous other counties (see the full list here) should not drink the water.

Health experts have linked long-term exposure to arsenic to cancer of the bladder, lungs, kidneys and other organs. Schaeffer slammed the state for not trying to resolve the matter and for not warning people. Schaeffer said:

“When told that their drinking water is violating the maximum contaminant limit under the Safe Drinking Water Act, most people want to know: ‘Can I keep drinking or cooking with this water? What does it mean?. The health experts we depend on for advice, for translation, should ask themselves whether they would let their own families continue to use water that year after year violates Safe Drinking Water limits for arsenic.”

In a statement, Terry Clawson, spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), said that while they are aware of the presence of arsenic in Texas’ drinking water, it “does not pose an immediate health threat” and that “the potential danger of arsenic intake is very specifically detailed” in a warning issued by the agency. It is true that the TCEQ regularly sends out advisories that read:

“There are potential high levels of arsenic in drinking water…this is not an emergency. You do not need to use an alternative water supply.”

Clawson went on to say that while the agency does not give communities funding for cleanup of tainted water infrastructure, it does provide information about sources of financing, and fines communities that do not act to make drinking water safer. Schaeffer concluded the report by saying:

Informing consumers is an important strategy to protect public health. But the Flint disaster shows how information that confuses or misleads can leave communities in the dark, be toxic to the public trust, and delay actions needed to make drinking water safe.”

The Environmental Integrity Project is demanding that Texas stop lying to its communities by telling them that the water is safe, and they want the federal and state governments to provide enough money to these 65 Texas communities to help pay for water filtration systems, (boiling is not sufficient to eliminate arsenic.)

Is this like Flint, Michigan? What should Texas do?


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