Is College Station’s drinking water contaminated?

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By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

After the recent national headlines about lead contamination in Flint, Mich., and the news stories about poor water quality monitoring practices, you certainly can’t blame people for suspecting our tap water may be unsafe — or even dangerous.

Unfortunately, some businesses have taken advantage of the headlines by spreading misinformation in a misguided attempt to sell water products and services.

Don’t believe them. College Station’s drinking water is safe.

Keeping our drinking water safe isn’t just our job, it’s our top priority. After all, we live and raise our families here, too.

No Violations — Ever

College Station has never had a violation of drinking water standards. We’ve achieved this solid track record of responsibility through the dedicated efforts of our certified operators and a rigorous attention to detail.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality conducts routine inspections of our water system to ensure compliance with state regulations for public health and safety. We maintain the state’s highest rating as a Superior Public Water System.

Just this year, the City of College Station’s Water Services and Public Works departments underwent a rigorous process to maintain our accredited status from the American Public Works Association. A large part of the reaccreditation process examined our policies and procedures for drinking water treatment, disinfection, and water quality monitoring.

Did you know that more in-depth information is available about your water quality than just about any other product?

Our annual Drinking Water Quality Report lists contaminants detected in our water along with amounts, sources, and whether they exceed the maximum levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Allow me to explain what is — and isn’t — in our tap water, and what we’re doing to protect you from harmful contaminants.

Our drinking water in Bryan-College Station comes from deep wells in the Carrizo-Wilcox and Sparta aquifers. Because these are protected groundwater sources, all we need to add is chlorine to disinfect our water to federal standards.

Lead and Copper

Since some water systems allegedly haven’t conducted proper monitoring, lead and copper rightly receive the most media coverage. In our latest round of lead and copper testing in August, no sample exceeded the maximum level for lead (0.0016 milligrams per liter) or copper (0.14 milligrams per liter).

In fact, the detected concentrations of lead and copper in our water were 10 times below the federally mandated action levels.

E. coli

We also test for microbiological contaminants such as coliform bacteria on a near-daily basis, including total coliform bacteria and disinfectant level. Total coliform bacteria are not disease-causing bacteria, but they are naturally present in the environment and are often found in association with other microbes that are capable of causing disease.

The absence of these bacteria from drinking water, along with a steady chlorine residual, is a good indication that the water is microbiologically safe for human consumption. Of 1,226 samples tested in 2014, four tested positive for total coliform bacteria, but all repeat samples were negative.

No fecal coliform bacteria were detected, and College Station continued its record of 100 percent compliance with the EPA’s Total Coliform Rule.

Some of the confusion on this point could be caused by how we’re mandated to display our test results in the water quality report. In the screen shot below, in the E. coli Maximum Contaminant Level column, it says “1 positive sample.” But that’s the maximum level allowed by the EPA, not our actual test result, which is shown the next column under Total Number of Positive E. coli Samples:

Coliform Bacteria

Knowledge is power

We invite you to become an informed consumer by reading our annual Drinking Water Quality Report. Reports from the last six years are posted on the website, and the results for 2015 will be available in July.

Now when someone tries to convince you College Station’s tap water is contaminated, you’ll be able to separate fact from fiction.

If you have any questions or concerns about our drinking water, email me at jnations@cstx.gov.

jnbio

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Photo Copyright: luchschen/123RF Stock Photo

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