Monday, March 3, 2014

Water Concerns

Anyone who lives in Wichita Falls and surrounding area who isn't concerned about water is just not paying attention. No surprise that there is a lot going on relating to that topic. As our lakes continue to drop, everyone needs to conserve.

Here are some programs those of you who read this blog (and keep up with our more active Facebook page) will be interested in.

Thursday, March 6, 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM. State Rep James Frank will hold a Water Town Hall in Rm 101, Dillard College, Midwestern State University.

Thursday March 6, 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM, Chris Cornman of Best Exteriors of North Texas, will be presenting a program on using greywater at River Bend Nature Center.

Tuesday, March 25, 9:30 AM - 1:00 PM, the Clean Rivers Advisory Committee will meet at the Red River Authority offices. This is a more technical meeting, but is open to the public. You do need to RSVP as they provide lunch. RSVP to Stacey Green at 940-723-2236 or by March 18.


  1. Bottoms Up!
    Part One of Two

    Some survival experts allege that drinking one’s own urine is considered an effective alternative to life-threatening dehydration, but what about drinking…poop? This is a hot topic for debate among the residents of Wichita Falls, and many may not have their facts straight. Should the bacteria levels in the waste water be our main concern, or are there other more harmful contaminants to consider? The true dangers of the water quality testing process may in fact be a lack of testing in the first place.

    Understanding the water reuse process itself is a critical step in identifying any potential deficits in the proper development of potable water; therefore, a closer look at this practice might begin to answer some of the more basic questions. The water sanitation process begins at the River Road Waste Water Treatment Plant where a number of methods are used to clean the water, beginning with a primary treatment. In the primary treatment phase, waste water is placed in holding tanks which allow heavier solids to settle to the bottom and lighter solids and oils to float to the top before removal. The secondary treatment phase is then initiated, which involves the use of microorganisms (bugs) to further remove dissolved and suspended organic substances. Next, the use of chlorine dioxide treats the water for any remaining harmful bacteria. Lastly, the water continues along through a cascading aerator, which helps to dissipate the concentrated chlorine.

    With the conclusion of these treatments, before the reuse project was enacted, the water was considered clean enough to be recycled into the Wichita River. Now, this treated waste water is sent along the reuse pipeline through Holiday Creek into the Cypress Water Treatment Plant. Upon its arrival there, the water is treated with microfiltration and reverse osmosis. Next, it is mixed at a 50/50 ratio with lake water and is treated once more with chlorine dioxide. At this point, the water has been decontaminated an additional three times and is sent out into the community for consumption.

    So, how effective are the current sanitation techniques the city has adopted? Using chlorine dioxide, while very effective at removing harmful bacteria from the waste water, results in the formation of chlorites which are a disinfection byproduct (DBP). At safe amounts, this causes no real harm, but at higher concentrations, ingestion of this DBP can cause respiratory distress or other complications. If the levels are >1.0ppm (parts per million), a number set by the EPA, then the city of Wichita Falls would be required by law to notify its customers of the unsafe levels and correct the situation.

    The main drawback to using chlorine dioxide is that it does not remove PPCPs (pharmaceutical and personal care products). These include any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or those utilized by farming or agricultural businesses to boost the growth or health of livestock. While the risks to humans and animals are largely unknown due to the relatively low concentrations of PPCPs in our drinking water, the numbers of these PPCPs are growing. Distinct circumstances such as fetal exposure to low levels of medications that a mother would typically be avoiding require further examination. Additionally, ordinary sewage systems are not equipped for PPCP removal. Currently, PPCPs are considered unregulated contaminants; therefore, there is no required testing or removal for these pollutants. In order to effectively filter out these PPCPs, the city of Wichita Falls would have to switch from the much more cost-effective chlorine dioxide treatment to a water purification process called ozonation. The cost estimates for the North Texas Municipal Water District’s ozonation implementation were nearly $128 million; understandably, this is simply not a viable option for the city of Wichita Falls to consider at this time.

  2. Bottoms Up!
    Part Two of Two

    Constituents outside of Wichita Falls have reason to be concerned, as well. Cities such as Burkburnett, Iowa Park, and Archer City all purchase a portion of their drinking water from Wichita Falls and are subject to the same impurities and impositions.

    With so many unknowns and anxieties surrounding this process, many have taken refuge in the assumption that their privately owned and operated wells are providing safe consumable water. The truth is, there are no testing regulations required for these independently preserved wells which means these people could be facing contaminants such as pesticide residue, herbicide residue(including atrazine), nitrates in excess of 10ppm, bacteria (including coliform), and excessive amounts of total dissolved solids, which are types of salts. There can be very serious implications surrounding the prolonged exposure to these contaminants. Excessive nitrates, for example, have been linked to the serious illness, and in some cases death, of infants below the age of six months.

    In essence, concern over the known contaminants present in the local water system may not necessarily need to be the primary cause for concern after all. Perhaps the unknowns should be procuring more attention from the public. However, one thing is certain; whether receiving water from a city system or an independent well, understanding the standards that regulate water purification has reached critical importance in this community.