The City of Wichita Falls is applying for a direct potable reuse project that is unlike any in Texas.
This proposed retrofit project involves directly reusing treated wastewater for drinking water. Thorough review and testing of the treatment plant is of utmost importance to protect public health.
Water-borne pathogens such as cryptosporidium and giardia could be present in drinking water in dangerous quantities if the plant does not demonstrate that it can be operated in compliance with state and federal drinking water laws on a daily basis in order to protect public health.
Because of the severity of the current drought, alternate drinking water sources are a priority for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The agency is devoting a tremendous amount of staff time and resources to this proposed project and is reviewing the application as quickly as possible. But the TCEQ cannot, and will not, cut corners on drinking water safety.
So that we may complete our review, data submitted by the city must be of sufficient quality and quantity. For example, the city was required to conduct daily tests of the microfiltration membranes during the Full-Scale Verification Test to demonstrate that the filters are functioning properly.
However, the report provided by the city is incomplete.
The city and TCEQ are communicating daily about the information necessary to approve this critical project. The TCEQ has and will continue to promptly review all data as soon as they are received.
Importantly, the TCEQ cannot finalize its decision until it has completed its analysis, which is contingent upon the city providing complete test results and data to comply with federal and state law.
The TCEQ recognizes the dire circumstances of this community as a result of the ongoing drought, but to hurry a decision on this project endangers public health — a risk TCEQ is not willing to take.
Terry Clawson is manager of media relations for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. www.tceq.state.tx.us