The City’s sole water source – the Ogallala Aquifer – naturally contains arsenic and fluoride levels above U.S. EPA standards. The City’s state-of-the art water treatment plant was developed at the request of the State of Texas to serve as a prototype technology for other small towns facing similar issues. When built in 2015, the City’s plant was touted as being the largest fluoride treatment plant in the United States, doubling the capacity of the country’s current largest fluoride treatment plant.
Arsenic (chemical symbol As) occurs naturally in soil and bedrock and is found in ground water in various parts of Texas. The highest levels of arsenic in Texas occur in the Ogallala and Gulf Coast aquifers.
Arsenic levels in the Ogallala naturally register around 30 parts per billion. This number was considered safe 15 years ago. However, in 2006, the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act changed their standard from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.The US EPA has determined that some people who drink water containing arsenic in excess of the MCL over many years could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.
The 2019 4th quarter running 12-month average arsenic level for the City of Andrews was .012 milligrams/Liter (mg/L or 16 parts per billion). The US EPA standard is .010 mg/L or 10 parts per billion. Arsenic levels in the 4th quarter of 2019 were 0.0069 mg/L, below the US EPA standard. Arsenic levels in 2020 and beyond are expected to also be below .010 mg/L or 10 parts per billion.
Since coming on line at the end of 2015, the City’s Water Treatment Plant has consistently generated drinking water that exceeds US EPA standards (see chart below). During most of 2018 and 1st quarter of 2019, however, the City was unable to fully utilize the plant’s filtering system while conducting routine maintenance. Since the plant became fully functional again, arsenic and fluoride levels have both consistently met US EPA standards.
What is the City doing to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
The original protocols established for maintaining/cleaning the plant's filtering media were based upon the manufacturer’s experience with smaller systems and different water quality; therefore, the protocols incorrectly called for the filtering media to be replaced after 2 years. Vessel clean-out protocol calling for more frequent media change-outs has now been implemented to ensure the Plant operates as designed at all times. The filtering system is now fully operational and lab tests confirm the water being treated exceeds required standards.
If you have further questions, please contact Steve Eggleston at 432-523-4820.