Officials insist Tawakoni water drinkable after 600,000 gasoline spill : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Officials insist Tawakoni water drinkable

But Dallas utility asks for new pipeline


By Tony Hartzel / The Dallas Morning News

RAINS COUNTY - State environmental officials and the Sabine River Authority assured concerned East Texas and Dallas-area residents Friday that water from Lake Tawakoni is safe and drinkable.

"It is quality water," said Sam Barrett, manager of the waste section for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, the state's environmental agency. "Even at water intake pipes, it is safe."

On March 9, a ruptured gasoline pipeline dumped about 600,000 gallons of gasoline about 24 miles from the Sabine-owned lake. Heavy rains moved some of it through Caddo Creek to the lake.

Since then, state and federal officials have monitored water quality and found that concentrations of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) have dropped to no more than 1.6 parts per billion, well below hazardous levels.

Despite those assurances, Dallas Water Utilities said Friday that it still will not draw water from the lake until it can review a formal cleanup plan that should be submitted next week.

Other small water companies that rely solely on Lake Tawakoni are drawing water again. Dallas remains concerned about MTBE concentrations that could be washed out of miles of contaminated soil and back into the water supply, said Terrace Stewart, Dallas Water Utilities executive director.

That concern has led the water utility to ask the Dallas City Council to adopt the toughest water restrictions in 50 years and build a new $12 million pipeline from Lake Ray Hubbard so summer water demands can be met. A cleanup plan could be proposed next week, but a pipeline decision can't wait because construction needs to start immediately in anticipation of a hot, dry summer, Mr. Stewart said.

"It's imperative that we ensure that the quality of water is as high as we can obtain," he said. "I'd like to have the same quality of water for our customers. Until we have that level of assurance, I'm not going to reactivate our pumps."

Soon after the spill, booms were put in creeks and earthen dams were built to contain most of the gasoline, said Rod Sands, vice president of operations for Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla. The company also is aerating the water as it travels down the creek, a process that removes more of the additive.

"I don't see a problem with pulling water out of Lake Tawakoni with the current levels of MTBE," said Mr. Sands.

The pipeline company has employed its own experts to test the lake water, and the state has reviewed their results.

Soil tests to determine the full extent of the needed cleanup should be complete next week, Mr. Sands said.

"I don't feel like Dallas' proposed pipeline is necessary from the standpoint of the leak," Mr. Sands said. "It may be necessary from the standpoint of the drought conditions here.

"The water is safe out of Lake Tawakoni for the city of Dallas and all other cities."

Mr. Stewart adamantly dismissed the notion that the city is using the gasoline spill to force Explorer Pipeline to pay for the $12 million project.

"But the issue of who is going to pay for what and when is going to have to be borne out in the future," he said.

Dallas is still concerned that MTBE could be washed from soil into the lake. But concentrations have actually dropped after two recent rains, Mr. Barrett said.

Smaller cities and water agencies can install charcoal filtration - a process that becomes impractical for large users. Tests have found no detectable levels of MTBE in any of their processed water, said Mr. Barrett.

Wells have dropped six inches in Greenville, the only other city that still isn't taking water from Lake Tawakoni. Greenville will begin pumping soon and is happy with the recent state test results.

Once a formal soil cleanup plan is approved, removal should take 30 to 60 days.

Cleanup can't come soon enough, local residents say.

"It's devastating us, as we speak," said Don Tanoos, mayor of West Tawakoni.

The town has no industry, and business is down 45 percent at one marina and down 90 percent at another park, he said.

"The people from Dallas we depend on are scared to come down," he said. "If you start lowering the volume of visitors to the lake, then when the registers quit jingling, we're dead."

Officials insist Tawakoni water drinkable after 600,000 gasoline spill

-- Ain't Gonna Happen (Not Here, April 10, 2000


Gee, what a lucky break for the people of Dallas, two glasses of water from Lake Tawakoni, and who needs light bulbs. They all glow in the dark, enough to read by? I hope so.

Give me a large break!!!!!

-- Richard (, April 10, 2000.

Please, Aint. Stop posting this crud. No one cares.

-- (..x@..x..), April 10, 2000.

I would just as soon know what is going on with this lake. MTBE's and burried pipelines and tanks are all over this country. We all may face this problem. I appreciate hearing how the clean up is going.

-- Pam (, April 10, 2000.

Don't stop posting things like this. I DO care, and I think others do too. There is so much denial about environmental pollution, I think it's good to have these posts show it really is happening, and it really is a problem.

-- gilda (, April 10, 2000.

Guess this is not the time to interject this tidbit. I once ran across some site that claimed asbestos was once used in dental dressings for gums. Do the research, if curious.

-- If da Right One Don't (, April 11, 2000.

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