Texas is struggling with regulatory compliance at drinking water plants, and by some standards, it is having more trouble than any other state in the nation.
"More than 310 public drinking water systems in Texas — nearly 4.5 percent of the state's regulated public water systems — have quality issues that haven’t been adequately addressed, federal officials told the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) this year. That is the highest percentage in the nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency," the Texas Tribune reported.
A letter from the federal EPA listed plants that may need enforcement attention. But Texas officials are not so sure the federal numbers truly represent the state's track record on tap water quality.
"TCEQ officials say the federal estimate is outdated and high; by their account, about 4 percent of systems have issues that need more attention. The agency said it has dramatically stepped up its enforcement in the past year, training more staff and pursuing more than 100 public water systems in recent months for clean water violations," the Tribune reported.
There may not be enough resources for the state to keep up with the issue.
"The EPA’s concerns and additional data suggest that keeping up with the 7,000 public water systems subject to state regulation in Texas has been a huge challenge. The TCEQ's enforcement division now has 107 full-time employees, compared with 117 in 2007, though its annual expenses have stayed relatively constant at about $5.5 million," the Tribune reported.
Robert Doggett, general counsel for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which serves areas that have violated enforcement rules, said resources could stand to be increased.
“There could be more resources brought to bear,” he said to the Tribune.
Midland, in western Texas, is among the areas that has drawn the attention of regulators, according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram.
"The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality struck the city of Midland with four water contaminant violations in 2013, as revealed in its annual water quality report released [in July]. The city was found in violation of high levels of arsenic, fluoride and selenium, according to the water report. The three inorganic contaminants were discovered within one of its two water entry points," the report said.
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