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Erin Brockovich Raises Concerns Over Water Quality In North Texas

PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) - When Erin Brockovich talks about water, people listen.

So, a recent series of Facebook posts by Brockovich criticizing water quality in Plano and much of North Texas has local residents like Christy Brown worried.

Plano Water Tower
Plano water tower (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

"She was involved in that other real public water supply case, and she was right," said Brown.

Brockovich's multi-million dollar legal victory over a California utility company for water pollution famously inspired a movie, earning Julia Roberts, who portrayed Brockovich, an Academy Award.

Brown has three kids, including an 8-week-old, in Plano and says Brockovich's warning is enough for her family to now make a switch.

"We've gone back only to bottled water, which is more expensive and less convenient," she said.

Brockovich's initial post singled out Plano, but the water that flows from faucets there also goes to Frisco, Richardson and dozens of other North Texas cities.

It comes from the North Texas Municipal Water District, which spent Thursday reassuring the public the water is safe to drink.

"We have taken pride in the water quality that we produce at this plant. That is the foremost thing that we look at – is producing high quality water," said Mike Rickman, NTMWD's deputy director of Operations and Maintenance.

Brockovich called chloramine, the mix of chlorine and ammonia used to disinfect the district's water, a "cheap dirty trick" that "actually forms toxins 1,000 time (sic) more dangerous."

NTMWD, though, claims 45 percent of the U.S. population gets tap water treated with chloramine.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says chloramine has been "used by water utilities since the 1930s" and as long as it meets EPA regulatory standards it's safe to use. 

"We're constantly, every day testing water to make sure that it is fit for human consumption, that it meets all those regulatory standards," said Rickman.

The city of Plano does its own independent testing on local water, too.

"Right now, we're not seeing anything wrong with it," said Plano's Public Works director Gerald Cosgrove.

Many North Texas residents have noted the smell of chlorine in their water.

The NTMWD explains that's actually the absence of ammonia. In recent weeks, it's temporarily replaced chloramine with simple chlorine as part of what it calls annual routine maintenance to remove biofilm throughout its system.

Brockovich says that's simply not true.

Thursday afternoon, though, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a statement calling it a "common practice" that can be performed as a "routine operational measure.". TCEQ said if used properly, the chlorine should have no detrimental impact on customers.

Cosgrove confirmed the NTMWD has performed the chlorine maintenance annually for the last several years. He's not sure why Plano's water quality is now being scrutinized.

The district, though, said it would be happy to answer questions.

"If M.s Brokovich wanted to sit down and discuss our treatment process, we would love to do that," said Rickman.


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