Digging deeper: Bridge city water issues trickle up to state level

According to consumer advocates, drinking or bathing in Bridge City's water can have a very real impact on pregnant women.

An editorial cartoon that appeared in the Sunday, Sept. 18 edition of The Beaumont Enterprise might look like a comic, but it's certainly no joke. It features a waitress serving a customer at the fictional Bridge City Diner. The customer, confused by the discolored water in his glass, says, "I ordered water, not iced tea."

The illustration tackles the issue of water quality in Bridge City, something Joseph Hannan knows all about.

"I have the third washing machine in four years is sitting against the wall in the garage and we're renting one right now because I'm not buying any more until this is fixed," he said. "[The water] eating up our appliances."

After years of issues with the city's water, Hannan took his concerns to the Bridge City City Council on Sept. 6.

"Ruined appliances, skin conditions, birth defects, miscarriages and a variety of other health conditions can all be a result of improper water chemistry," he told council members.

"The water chemistry is really out of balance and it's causing a lot of harm to consumers within the water system," said Bob Bowcock, who works with consumer advocate Erin Brockovich.

Bowcock said TCEQ documents reveal levels of total trihalomethanes -- or TTHMs -- exceeded the maximum containment level of 80 ug/L for more than just one quarter. In fact, TCEQ's own reports indicate Bridge City's TTHMs level hasn't been below the maximum since September 2015.

According to Bowcock, drinking or bathing in that water can have a very real impact on pregnant women.

"Exposure in a 90-day trimester will cause an increase in miscarriage in the first trimester and a low birth weight in the second and third trimester," he said.

In an email exchange with Joel Klumpp, a manager in TCEQ's water supply division, Bowcock pointed out spotty data over the past few years. Though Klumpp mentions "compliance with the TTHM MCL be calculated at each sample location using a LRAA of four consecutive quarters rather than a single sample result," TCEQ documents revealed only two tests have been performed in 2016, only two in 2015 and just one in 2014.

12News asked TCEQ to address the issues raised by Bowcock, but we have not yet received a response. Bridge City's City Manager Jerry Jones also hasn't responded, but he did offer the following comment more than a week ago:

"We had a ground storage tank and another old well. When we did the testing on the areas that were affected, when we cut that well off, the TTHMs went back down to a normal state."

The Bridge City City Council will discuss the issue of water quality at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20. The meeting at City Hall gets started at 6 p.m.

(© 2016 KBMT)


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