MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

July 16, 2013

Official downplays EPA report on city's water

Carbon content violation ‘minute’ and no threat to health, he says

By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer

— A report about water standard violations recently sent to Muskogee residents is nothing to be alarmed over, a public works official said.

The report says that the Muskogee water treatment plant failed to remove enough organic carbon for the water supply on average between April 2012 and March 2013.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires water treatment plants to remove at least 35 percent of organic carbon from drinking water. It tracks the success of the removal by an average taken over a 12-month period.

There were several months during the last 12 months the plant did not remove enough organic material, said Assistant Public Works Director George Kingston.

However, the amount they were out of compliance was “minute,” he said.

“It’s not something that anyone should be alarmed about, but the state requires us to let our users know when we get out of range,” Kingston said.

About 34 percent to 34.5 percent was removed rather than 35 percent for several months, which was enough to hurt the 12-month average the EPA tracks, he said.

The EPA reports on its website that water out of compliance with its standards would have to be consumed over many years to lead to increased health risks.

Kingston said the watershed the plant gets its water from, Fort Gibson Lake, tends to be high in “organics” and it is sometimes difficult to remove them.

However, the organic carbon is not a health risk for the community, he said.

Instead, it’s the interaction of the organic carbons with chlorine used to treat the water that may create chemicals that consumed over many years may lead to adverse health effects, including liver or kidney problems, nervous system effects and a possible increased risk of getting cancer, according to the EPA.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.