Dallas asked to adopt the toughest water restrictions in 50 years

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Crackdown sought in water use Tougher rules, pipeline proposed after gas spill


By Terri Langford / The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas City Council was asked Wednesday to adopt the toughest water restrictions in 50 years and to build a $12 million pipeline because of contamination from a gasoline spill near Lake Tawakoni, one of the city's main reservoirs.

If approved next week, the restrictions would limit lawn and garden watering to once every five days; ban runoff from landscaping; and prohibit the hosing of paved areas. The city, in addition, would stop wet street sweeping and suspend the washing of municipal vehicles.

Violators could be punished with fines of up to $1,000. The conservation measures would take effect May 1.

"This was a very significant event," Dallas Water Utilities director Terrace Stewart told council members, referring to the March 9 spill of a half-million gallons of gasoline near the lake.

A gasoline additive known as MTBE has since been detected in Lake Tawakoni. Levels of the chemical, which is classified by federal environmental authorities as a potential carcinogen, have declined dramatically since the spill from a fractured pipeline.

One fear is that new rains might wash more MTBE into the lake from contaminated ground near the shoreline.

Normally, during peak summer usage, Dallas Water Utilities delivers more than 800 million gallons of water a day to nearly 2 million customers. Without Lake Tawakoni, officials said, during peak usage the system could deliver only 615 million gallons a day.

With summer approaching, Mr. Stewart said, the city should put the water restrictions in place and build a second pipeline by July 1 from Lake Ray Hubbard, another major reservoir. That project is expected to cost $12 million.

Mr. Stewart also said the city would 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.

Council member Laura Miller asked why the company that owned the broken pipeline, Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla., had not been sued by the city to recoup the costs.

"Why should we have taxpayers pay for private industry's mistakes?" she said.

Explorer Pipeline is a consortium of eight large oil companies including Chevron, Texaco, Marathon, Conoco and Citgo. Scott VanDyke, president of the consortium, said the water in Lake Tawakoni is safe. About 10 other communities get water from the lake, and only Greenville has joined Dallas in deciding not to use the lake's water.

Mr. VanDyke said his company is trying to develop a remediation plan for the area. He said there's no reason not to drink treated water from the lake.

"We just don't understand why the city of Dallas is setting a different standard," he said. "I have three granddaughters age 6, 8 and 10 who live in Dallas, and I'm as concerned as anybody."

Regarding the possibility of litigation by the city to recoup the cost of a second Lake Ray Hubbard pipeline, Mr. VanDyke would only say: "Nobody wants to be sued, and I don't think it's necessary that the pipeline be built."

Most council members said they would favor legal action against Explorer as a last resort.

The Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission has set a "consumer acceptability advisory level" of 20 to 40 parts per billion for MTBE. At that level, most people won't drink the water because of a foul odor and taste.

At the time of the spill, there were 1,500 parts per billion of MTBE at Lake Tawakoni. As of this week, the levels have fallen to 2 parts per billion, said TNRCC toxicologist Michael Honeycutt.

"The water is safe to use," he said.

But Mr. Stewart, the water utilities director, said no chances should be taken with the public's health.

The city has not used water from the lake since learning of the spill


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), April 06, 2000


Boy, if there's one place in the U.S. I wouldn't want to live in the U.S. this summer it would be the Dallas / Ft. Worth area. What with the drught, the aging water pipeline system, and the recent Lake Tetawauki infection of spilled gasoline, these alone combine into a bad omen. But, technical problems enter into it too. (May I whisper, y2k?) Over a 4-day period in February Ft. Worth had 94 water line breaks.

-- JackW (jwpayne@webtv.net), April 06, 2000.

I know that water pipes break.
And I know that there's been an amazing increase in the breakage.
But how does a computer glitch play into this?

To much pressure?
Pressure being pulsed / surged?

I thought most of the water systems we run manually, and PeeCees monitored the water quality and maybe the pressure, but not controled the pressure - again, I thought.

Perspiring minds want to know!


-- perry (perry@ofuzzy1.com), April 06, 2000.

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