Back in November we blogged about a story that KHOU broke in Houston about radioactive contaminants in the Houston area drinking water. Revelations that came to light showed hundreds of water providers around the Gulf Coast region were providing their customers with drinking water that contains radioactive contaminants that raise health risks. State tests by the Texas Department of State Health Services that were reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality showed utilities provided water that exceeded the EPA legal limit for exposure to alpha radiation. But the kicker was that for more than 20 years, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality under-reported the amount of radiation found in drinking water provided by communities all across Texas by subtracting off the margin of error for all radiation readings it would receive (which was not in compliance with EPA rules that have been in place since Dec. 7, 2000). Click here to see that post.
It appears that TCEQ was using this method to help water systems escape formally violating federal limits for radiation in drinking water, maintaining their calculation procedure eliminated approximately 35 violations. Without a formal violation, the water systems did not have to inform their residents of the increased health risk.
In this recent report by KHOU, newly-released e-mails from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality show the agency’s top commissioners directed staff to continue lowering radiation test results, in defiance of federal EPA rules. It goes on to revisit a Texas Water Advisory Council (comprised of some of the highest ranking public officials in Texas) meeting in June of 2004 where they reviewed and discussed TCEQ testimony regarding this issue, yet nothing seems to have changed in how TCEQ handled the under reporting, and they continued their policy of subtracting the margin of error from the result of each water-radiation test until an EPA audit caught them doing so in 2008. The state has since complied with the EPA regulation. So if you didn’t drink tap water in the Houston area before 2008, you’re probably good. Click here to to see this most recent KHOU story.