Erin Brockovich speaks out on Tyler water supply

Tyler, Texas (KETK) - A high-profile legal clerk and environmental activist is going after the city of Tyler concerning a recent water contamination.

Erin Brockovich, who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in he Oscar-winning "Erin Brockovich," has called out the city of Tyler after it was revealed the drinking water being supplied to consumers has exceeded the maximum containment level for haloacetic acids (HAA5). 

Background

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established the MCL for haloacetic acids (HAA5) to be 0.060 milligrams per liter, based on locational running annual average, and has determined that it is a health concern at levels above the MCL. 

Tyler Water Utilities officials sent out a letter to consumers stating the analysis of drinking water in the community for haloacetic acids (HAA5) indicates a compliance value in quarter three of 2015 of 0.062 mg/L for DBP2-05. Tyler Water Utilities states this level is only .002 mg/L above the established MCL.

What is a haloacetic acid (HAA5)?

Haloacetic acids are a group of volatile organic compounds that are formed when chlorine, added to water during the treatment process for disinfection, reacts with naturally-occuring matter in the water.

Dangers of increased haloacetic acid (HAA5)

Some people who drink water containing an excess of haloacetic acid (HAA5) over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer.

The city of Tyler is claiming consumers do not need to use an alternative water supply, saying the water remains safe to drink. They go on to say, if you do have health concerns regarding the water, you may want to talk to your doctor to get more information on how this could affect you.

On Thursday, the city of Tyler sent out another notice in an attempt to answer questions from the public.

What exactly was the notice sent to citizens?

The notice is required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and includes mandatory language required by the TCEQ, to inform our customers of an exceedance of the maximum contaminant level for haloacetic acids.
 
What did it mean?

The City of Tyler exceeded the maximum contaminant level for haloacetic acids, which is a by-product of the disinfection process used to treat our drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency has established a maximum contaminant level of 0.060 mg/l and the City experienced a level of 0.062 mg/l. This is 0.002 mg/l (which is equivalent to 2 parts per billion) over the level established by the EPA.
     
How did this happen? What was the cause?

Haloacetic acids are formed when chlorine - which is used to remove harmful pathogens from our drinking water - reacts with naturally occurring organic material found in our surface water sources (Lake Tyler, Lake Tyler East and Lake Palestine). The organic materials in the water come from the decomposition of plants out in the watershed which get washed into the lakes during heavy rainfalls. This exceedance of haloacetic acids occurred due to heavy rains this past spring that caused higher than normal organic loadings in the lakes.
 
Why didn't we prevent this from happening?

Unfortunately, we can't control the amount of rainfall that we receive or the level of organic material that washes into Lake Palestine and Lake Tyler from portions of their watersheds not controlled by the City of Tyler.  Although we can attempt to minimize the formation of disinfection by-products, we cannot completely eliminate their formation through the conventional water treatment methods implemented at our treatment facilities.
 
How can you make sure it doesn't happen again?

The City will be making adjustments to our treatment process by increasing the amount of powdered activated carbon that we currently use and by adjusting the pH of the finished water, which will help minimize the formation of disinfection by-products.
 
Is our water safe to drink?

Absolutely. The City experienced a level of haloacetic acids, which is a disinfection by-product, of 0.062 mg/l. This is 0.002 mg/l (which is equivalent to 2 parts per billion) over the level established by the EPA. The EPA estimates that an adult would have to drink one half gallon of water per day with elevated levels of disinfection by-products for 60 to 70 years to be at risk for developing cancer.

However, Brockovich is claiming city officials are lying to the public.

The following was posted by Brockovich on her Facebook page Friday:

Tyler, Texas... you are being lied to in a very dangerous way. 
 
Tyler Water Utilities customers received a notice of a contaminant violation in the water supply, but officials said the water remains safe to drink. This is a lie and the story you are being told is completely false. A Drinking Water VIOLATION is a serious thing that cannot just be downplayed in the press. 
 
On August 4, 2015...the city began using what is known as free chlorine, a type of disinfectant normally used to treat water. This is what caused the violation... period. You were victims of a sever distribution system chlorine burnout. The burnout lasted for two months and ending in October.
 
They love to tell you a 65 year old man that drinks a gallon of water everyday might have a increase of cancer of one in one million ... but fail to tell you studies of women who drank water containing disinfection byproducts during pregnancy show an association between exposure to elevated levels of and small
increased risks for low birth weights, miscarriages and birth defects. Ladies... pregnancy is nine months... not 65 years. 
 
I particularly like how they tell you, "The peak level reported in the period was 126 parts per billion, but the measurement is based on a rolling average, not peak measurements,". That is insanity... but they expect you to believe it... a measurement is a measurement...period. They "regulation" permits averaging for Violation... but the measured amount the community consumed at this location at this time was 126... more than double the maximum contaminant level.
 
We must fight back... this is complete insanity.

According to Brockovich's website, after being seriously injured in a traffic accident in Reno, she moved back to California's San Fernando Valley, and hired Masry & Vititoe to represent her. They won a small settlement but she still needed work so she got a job at their law firm as a file clerk, it was while organizing papers on a pro bono real estate case that she first found medical records that would explode into the largest direct action lawsuit in US history.
 
Her exhaustive investigation uncovered that Pacific Gas & Electric had been poisoning the small town of Hinkley's Water for over 30 years. It was because of her unwavering tenacity that PG & E had been exposed for leaking toxic Chromium 6 into the ground water. This poison affected the health of the population of Hinkley. In 1996, as a result of the largest direct action lawsuit of its kind, spear-headed by Brockovich and Ed Masry, the utility giant was forced to pay out the largest toxic tort injury settlement in US history: $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents.

 


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