Mayor assures residents water is safe to drink

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, February 27, 2013

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Chico residents recently received a letter saying high levels of uranium had been detected in the city’s water supply, but Mayor J.D. Clark says residents shouldn’t be concerned.

The city noticed a spike in uranium levels in the water back in 2009. The levels exceeded 30 micrograms per liter, the level at which the Environmental Protection Agency says it becomes a possible health risk.

At that time, the city shut down three of its oldest wells, and Clark says those wells have remained shut off. The wells that are currently used for public consumption “have never had an issue,” Clark said.

The notice, he said, still refers to the issues experienced in 2009.

Clark said the city still does not know what caused the spike in uranium, which is considered a “naturally occurring radioactive material” by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Clark said that the city continues to test all of its wells each month.

The city is looking for a solution to its uranium-level problem in the form of a water filtration system. Last October, the city applied for a grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture for a municipal water filtration project. The grant winners are expected to be announced in April or May.

Clark said it would be a matching grant, although the exact amount of the grant won’t be known until the announcement since it depends on the type of project and how much total funding will be available from the TDA. He estimates the cost of a water filtration system at $400,000 to $500,000.

He hopes the filtration system will do more than just filter out uranium.

“It would also help the limestone content, which has always been high in this area,” he said. “All that limestone is hard on people’s appliances like water heaters and coffeemakers.”

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