New water treatment plant will take care of problem, Guerra said

Sue Fleming, The Freer Press

Customers of Freer Water Control Improvement District (WCID) are receiving a letter in this month's billing, a notification of the arsenic levels in the city's water exceeding standards set by the federal government.

General Manager Vincente Guerra says by law the notification will be sent to customers once a year at least until arsenic levels are lowered to government standards.

He assures that after the construction of the new treatment plant is completed in 2009, arsenic levels will be lowered to meet government standard.

The arsenic which is found in the city's water is not an added substance, it is a natural substance in the ground water.

The letter from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality states U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established the MCL at 0.10 mg/L. Freer W.C.I.D. water system supplies water at a current level of .040 mg/L.

The letter states that some people who drink water containing arsenic in excess of the MCL over many years could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.

Those with health concerns are advised to speak to their doctor.

"They've increased the standard again this year, but actually there's no change in water quality since last year and people shouldn't be alarmed," Guerra said. "We're doing as much as we can do to reach compliance, which takes time and of course, funding."

He said to correct the arsenic level problem, Phase 1 of the treatment plant project has been completed which is the construction of two new water wells located seven miles southeast of Freer.

Phase 2, construction of a treatment plant consisting of an Dialysis Electro Reversal System (EDR), designed to lower the arsenic levels, is proposed to begin at the end of the year, he said.

The plant is expected to be finished after nine months of work. Approximate total costs of the entire projects is about $4.2 million.

"About 30 percent of that amount will be covered by grants, the rest probably with loans," Guerra said. "Like I said, it will take time but it will be done."

T.C.E.Q. has not levied fines against W.C.I.D. for the arsenic violation, granting extensions until the problem is solved.