By Jack Fink

PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – The city of Plano says its latest test results show its water is safe to drink.

Officials with the city had the tests conducted in an effort to reassure residents after complaints about the chlorine smell and taste along with skin rashes surfaced last month.

The results come three days before environmental activist Erin Brockovich comes to Plano to meet with concerned residents and officials with the North Texas Municipal Water District, which supplies water to Plano and other cities.

Jerry Cosgrove, Plano’s Director of Public Works says, “The water is safe. Again, all the test results came within the federal limits.”

The tests came during the one month period in which the water district used only chlorine to disinfect the water instead of the mix of chlorine and ammonia, called chloramine, that’s used during the rest of the year. Results show of the 12 sites tested in Plano, five had higher levels of trihalomethanes, a disinfectant byproduct, than the federal limit, which is 80 parts per billion.

However, the yearly average, which is how the Feds measure this, had lower levels of the byproduct than the limit at all 12 sites. Plano also tested for haloacetic acid, another disinfectant byproduct.

The city says results show levels from this test and the year-round average were both under the federal limit at all 12 sites. Neither the water district nor the city usually tests the water during the one month period in which only chlorine is used to kill bacteria because it has higher levels of the byproducts.
Cosgrove says the byproducts come when the chlorine acts with carbon.

Prolonged exposure to these byproducts Cosgrove says could be harmful, but not for the amount from one test. “The effect of the byproduct is not a short-term, it’s a long-term effect. So it doesn’t happen immediately. It happens over a long period of many years.”

Jamie Stephens, who’s helping to organize Brockovich’s visit to Plano says they will be meeting with the water district. “We’re going to be having a meeting and they’re also going to be giving us a tour. We’re going to be hopefully talk about the issues as we see it.”

Brockovich criticized the water district’s use of chloramine and chlorine in a series of posts on her Facebook page. Stephens is among the mothers who founded the group Safer Water North Texas. She says residents reached out to Brockovich on her website and on her Facebook page. “At the height of everything that was happening, they were having these reactions and these are things they weren’t happening in years prior. Most of these people have lived in their residence for five to ten years. They have never had this reaction, so our question is why is this year different?”

Cosgrove says, “I can’t explain it. I’ve gone back and I’ve looked at previous years to see what our chlorine levels were vs. this year, and I’m not seeing lots of differences.”

The state has said the water quality in both Plano and the water district continue to meet all federal and state guidelines. The district conducted similar tests to Plano’s two weeks ago and found the water to be safe.

Officials from the water district will brief the Frisco City Council Tuesday night.

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