While the area’s water all comes from the same source — Belton Lake — two municipalities were cited for water quality violations.
The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, the lead environmental regulating agency for the state, released annual water quality reports for Nolanville, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove and Killeen this summer. The reports measure numerous contaminants in the drinking water, ensuring chemicals, micro organisms and radioactive elements are only present in safe amounts.
Killeen and Copperas Cove were flagged by TCEQ for failing to properly notify state authorities or residents about procedural testing mistakes that occurred in 2013.
TCEQ issued no violations in Harker Heights and Nolanville. Contaminants tested in both cities were below the maximum level allowed, according to the reports.
“We get good water from the (Water Control and Improvement District) and we take care of it,” Harker Heights Mayor Rob Robinson said. “We try to hire good people and let them do what they were hired to do.”
According to Killeen’s 2013 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report, when the city’s routine water samples were taken in June, samples 1 and 1.5 tested positive for coliform and E. coli, respectively.
While the amount of bacteria present in the water was not a violation itself, the city was issued one because it failed to collect all the required follow-up samples.
Cities test for total coliform bacteria because low amounts of the nondisease-causing organism indicate good water quality as they are often seen in association with more harmful bacteria, according to the report.
“TCEQ required that follow-up tests be performed at the location of the failure, upstream of the failure and downstream of the failure. By mistake, only the failure location test was performed,” Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said.
Because of this failure, TCEQ said it cannot be sure of the quality of drinking water during June 2013.
Shine also said the city failed to notify its residents about the additional tests needed because it did not perform the additional tests.
Failing to notify Killeen residents resulted in another violation, according to the report.
“The city performs more than 120 tests per month, and we strive to be in full compliance. Following these violations, we provided additional training to employees as a supplement to the refresher training we provide periodically,” Shine said.
Because the sample was collected in the field, Shine said the city believes the contamination happened because of outside influences.
The report cites naturally occurring bacteria in the environment as the cause of the spike.
“The city of Killeen has always had exceptional water quality, Belton Lake is exceptionally clean,” said Mayor Scott Cosper, adding he regularly drinks the tap water. “If there was a little oops, I’m sure our staff will see that it certainly won’t happen again.”
Copperas Cove also missed a reporting deadline for its annual drinking water report and was subsequently issued a violation.
“Water distribution failed to submit the lead and copper report to TCEQ,” said Daryl Uptmore, Cove’s public works director. “Once the Water Distribution Department was notified of the error, we promptly sent the sampling data.”
According to TCEQ, the report was received in April. The city was held in violation for two months, according to Cove’s water quality report.
The amount of lead and copper material in the water, however, was well below the maximum requirement.
“I think it was just a one time deal,” Cove Mayor John Hull said, referring to the violation. “I’ve been drinking (the tap water) every day, and I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
Hull said the current tap water is better than what he had growing up.
“We used to have wells back when I was younger, and that didn’t taste so good,” he said.
Andrea Morrow, TCEQ spokeswoman, said violations in Killeen and Cove did not meet the criteria for formal enforcement for drinking water violations cited under the Texas Health & Safety Code Chapter 341. Still, a minimum of $50 to a maximum of $1,000 per day per violation is authorized, however, as described in the Penalty Policy, other factors are considered when determining administrative penalties.
TCEQ regulates water quality across Texas and holds municipalities to standards issued by the Environment Protection Agency, the federal regulating body. For the report, every city’s public works department and staff is required to test for a variety of contaminants based on its water source and the size of the population it serves, Morrow said.
Per federal and state drinking water regulations, total coliform, disinfection by-products (total trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids), lead and copper, and asbestos are sampled at designated sites within the distribution system, Morrow said.
Chemical samples for minerals, metals, radionuclides and organic chemicals are collected from finished water at a location called the entry point. The entry point is where fully treated water enters the distribution system and represents water consumed by customers, she said.