TEXAS - Update...Tawakoni Water Unsafe, City Decides

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Title: TAWAKONI WATER UNSAFE, CITY DECIDES Council to be asked to impose restrictions


By Michael Saul / The Dallas Morning News

Almost a third of Dallas' water supply will be unavailable indefinitely because of a half-million-gallon gasoline spill earlier this month in Hunt County, city officials said Wednesday.

As a result, City Manager Ted Benavides said, the City Council will be asked to impose new water restrictions and make other arrangements for water delivery that could cost millions.

Mr. Benavides said officials decided not to resume using water from Lake Tawakoni after laboratory tests revealed the presence of the gasoline additive MTBE. The city has not drawn water from the lake, one of five municipal water sources, since learning of the spill March 10.

"Our Number 1 priority is to do what we believe is right and ensure that we can deliver safe, dependable, high-quality drinking water to our customers," Mr. Benavides said.

He said the latest tests "indicated that the current levels of MTBE in Lake Tawakoni have made the water unsuitable."

MTBE, added to gasoline to reduce air pollution, has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a potential carcinogen. Even in low concentrations, it can make water taste and smell foul.

The city manager said he would ask the council next week to enact new water-conservation measures, effective May 1. The so-called Stage Three restrictions would include a ban on the operation of ornamental fountains and on permits for construction of swimming pools, hot tubs, spas and fountains.

Customers also would be prohibited from draining and refilling swimming pools, and high-volume users would be subject to a 10 percent rate hike.

Violations could result in fines of up to $2,000.

Because of recent drought conditions, Dallas has been calling for increased public awareness of water use, known as Stage One conservation, since Jan. 26. On Wednesday, Mr. Benavides put in place Stage Two of the city's water management plan, effective immediately.

Stage Two calls for some voluntary and some mandatory restrictions, including prohibitions against hosing off paved areas and using faucets and hydrants for recreational use.

Dallas has not had to restrict water use since the record drought of the 1950s, Mr. Benavides said, but the loss of Lake Tawakoni leaves the city with little choice.

Dallas Water Utilities director Terrace Stewart said the city must build piping and pumping facilities immediately to gain access to additional water from Lake Ray Hubbard. That project will cost $10 million to $12 million, officials said.

Mr. Stewart said the city also will need to expedite the design and construction of a pipeline to Lake Fork, an unconnected reservoir east of Lake Tawakoni. That project is expected to cost $100 million to $200 million.

Mr. Benavides said he hoped to persuade officials from Explorer Pipeline Co., the owner and operator of the gas pipeline that broke, to pick up all of the city's costs resulting from the spill.

Company officials said in a written statement Wednesday that they share the city's concerns about the quality of Lake Tawakoni's water but did not commit to absorbing Dallas' additional costs.

"We intend to respond to the city's concerns and requests," the statement read. "However, other communities have found the lake to be at acceptable limits."

The company says 10 communities other than Dallas draw most or all of their water from the lake.

According to the city, recent tests at Lake Tawakoni showed levels of MTBE ranging from 0.67 parts per billion to more than 1,000 parts per billion. Some consumers can detect MTBE taste and odor at 2 parts per billion.

In addition, sampling of soils in the spill area, which drains to Lake Tawakoni when it rains, showed MTBE levels up to 235,000 parts per billion.

Although MTBE levels in the lake have been receding, Mr. Benavides said, they remained unacceptably high.

"We want to do what we think is right and to take no chances," he said.



-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 30, 2000

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