BRIDGE CITY - Water tests in Bridge City are coming back clean but homeowners and an environmental activist are raising concerns about a filtration system in the works to clear up the dingy color.
Those concerned think a chemical compound found in the water has the potential to de-rail the $1.4 million project.
Bridge City is waiting for a green light from the state to fire up a water filtration system that is expected to remove iron and manganese that give the water a brownish color.
An environmental activist says tests showing bromide in the water could mean the type of filtration system purchased won't work.
"When I wake up in the morning I have to brush my teeth and [the water] makes me want to gag," said Chance LaCroix. "When I'm showering it's brown. It's disgusting."
LaCroix is a junior at Bridge City High School. He just moved to the area from west Texas and quickly noticed a difference in the water coming out of his faucet.
Dayton Greer who has lived in Bridge City for 8 years says he's wondering if the water will ever clear up.
"It's been so long now it makes you wonder," said Greer. "We definitely need good water. I don't know what it's going to take or who has the authority to do it but we definitely need some good water around here."
A report by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality shows safe water at the last reading taken this month.
A filtration system purchased by the city for $1.4 million was bought to clear up the color caused by iron and manganese.
The TCEQ has to check out the system and sign off on the equipment before it can be started.
City Manager Jerry Jones says he expects the state to move forward with the permitting process within a week.
Environmental activist Bob Bowcock, who works with famed environmental watchdog Erin Brockovich, says he fears money spent on the new system could go to waste.
The TCEQ says testing in bridge city reveals "naturally occurring" bromides in the source water.
Bromide is a chemical compound found in salt water, table salt, and some nuts, grains and seafood.
The World Health Organization published a study that concludes Bromide by itself isn't a health risk in your drinking water.
The problem comes when bromide chemically reacts with chlorine producing Trihalomethanes or THMs. This byproduct can sound off alarms when the levels get too high.
Bromides also raise red flags for Bowcock.
He says if the newly purchased system using chlorine continues to cloud the water, the city may need to shell out more money for new equipment that doesn't use chlorine.
The city manager does not believe the success of the new filtration system will hinge on bromides.
The TCEQ has promised to work with the city,
"...ensure that water produced by the iron/manganese removal equipment is safe and free from harmful contaminants, which include the disinfection byproducts."
When asked specifically if Bromides were a concern, a TCEQ spokesperson said:
"Just like any chemical, the potential for reactions with other chemicals must be considered. In this case, the reactions with chlorine are being studied. Bromide, by itself, is not a regulated contaminant. The reactions with chlorine are of concern and need to be addressed."
TCEQ Spokesperson Andrea Morrow also said there's a chance the bromides are contained to one well.
"To produce safe drinking, a public water system may need to provide multiple treatment techniques to address different water quality issues. One of the treatment techniques is the use of the proposed new filter for iron/manganese removal. Different strategies and techniques are required to address the naturally occurring bromide levels in the Bridge City Water. The city believes it has isolated the source to one of the city's wells. Currently, this well is under repair to correct a damaged well casing. Water quality testing will be required after the well repair to determine if the bromide and other naturally occurring organic material has been effectively removed from the source."
While the process is being ironed out, those in Bridge City who come into contact with the water every day are waiting for relief.
"I think there is hope. It's a good community," said LaCroix.
Greer says whatever it takes, he's ready for clean, safe water.
Now it's up to the TCEQ to decide if they'll allow Bridge City to use the equipment that's already been purchased, or if another method will be required.
When that decision is announced, we will keep you updated.
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