Erin Brockovich claims North Texas water is unsafe to drink. The environmental activist, best known for Julia Roberts’ portrayal of her in a fabled film about her fight over contaminants in a California desert town, wages her latest war on Facebook.
Last week, the Southern California-based Brockovich suddenly sharply criticized the drinking water of Plano, a Dallas suburb, in a series of lengthy Facebook posts. She asserted the water was unsafe to drink because of chloramine, a chlorine cleaning agent used by the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD).
Brockovich charged the water district lost control of the water quality and their annual maintenance procedure was actually “a remedial action to correct a serious problem they themselves have created because they are cheating on the regulations.” She accused the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) of lying and insisted NTMWD officials made a “conscious choice to cut corners to the bare minimum” by using chloramine. She alleged the cleaning agent “actually forms toxins 1,000 time (sic) more dangerous.”
This quickly erupted into a social media firestorm. Worse, residents are scared.
On Tuesday evening, NTMWD officials assured the Plano City Council the drinking water supply is safe. They presented independent lab results which tested water samples from Plano’s northern system. The findings revealed the presence of disinfection byproducts but the levels were well below the maximum amount considered safe. The water district explained that during the routine 28-day chlorine maintenance they remove ammonia, one of the three cleaning agents used. They said chlorine levels are not increased but a chlorine odor and taste is produced by the absence of the ammonia.
Tom Kula, NTMWD executive director stated “the water district has delivered safe, quality water to North Texas cities for more than 60 years.” He said the water industry is highly regulated and that NTMWD meets or exceeds all standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Kula noted 45 percent of the U.S. population is served by public water supplies that use chloramine.
CBS DFW reported the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said chloramine has been “used by water utilities since the 1930’s” and as long as it meets EPA regulatory standards it is safe to use.
The NTMWD serves 1.7 million North Texas residents in the counties of Collin, Dallas, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufrman, Rains, and Rockwall. They post monthly and annual quality reports on their website. In January, they announced their annual system maintenance would occur from February 26 to March 26. They explained it “helps optimize the quality of our drinking water and reduce the amount of hydrant flushing necessary during the warm weather months. Less hydrant flushing during the summer helps conserve water.”
Still, Brockovich continues to post otherwise about Plano water. In comments she made on her own threads, she called NTMWD press releases responding to her accusations “total crap.” She wrote, “I have common sense on my side.” Reportedly, Brockovich will visit Plano on April 5.
More than 20 years ago, the activist crusaded against Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), alleging a toxic plume of hexvalent chromium 6 contaminated the drinking water of Hinkley, a Mojave Desert town, and that the carcinogen would trigger a wave of increased cancers. The case settled out of court in 1996 for $333 million, the largest sum ever awarded in a U.S. class-action suit. In 2000, Hollywood glamorized the case for the silver screen.
However, in 2010, Breitbart News reported the wave of higher cancer rates Brockovich anticipated never materialized in Hinkley. Last year, the American Council on Science and Health called out Brockovich for using “junk science to score a jackpot settlement” after California water regulators tossed the regulation that resulted from the PG&E hexavalent chromium case. A Sacramento judge ruled it invalid because it did not consider economic feasibility, according to The Sacramento Bee.
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