Tests have shown slightly elevated arsenic levels in Bellmead’s water, and the city has hired a consulting firm to pinpoint the cause and determine what steps might be necessary to correct the issue.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality notified the city that the drinking water supplied to customers exceeded its maximum contaminant level for arsenic.
Public Works Director Scott Coleman said the city’s arsenic level is just past the threshold that requires a public notice. Coleman said this was a first for the city.
“There’s trace amounts of arsenic in basically all drinking water,” he said. “It’s somewhat of like a mineral in a way. Obviously if you have it in large doses it could be dangerous.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set the limit for arsenic at 0.01 milligrams per liter. Anything higher is considered a health concern. In the last quarter of 2017, Bellmead’s water tested at 0.014 milligrams per liter.
“This is not an emergency,” the notice on the city’s website states. “However, some people who drink water containing arsenic in excess of the MCL (maximum contaminant level) over many years could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system, and my have an increased risk of getting cancer.”
The city hired Antea Group, an international health, safety and environmental consulting firm, to sample water supplies to help determine the cause of the contamination, Coleman said. Results will take a few weeks to get back.
The city gets its water from the Trinity Aquifer through five wells. Four of the wells are 30 to 40 years old. Coleman said he suspects the discrepancy may come from the newer well, which is about seven years old. The city takes samples of its drinking water four times a year, and this is the first time arsenic has tested high, he said.
The high sample could have come from a specific pocket and be an isolated incident. The new sampling will help determine whether the high test was an outlier, Coleman said. If the testing shows consistently higher levels of arsenic, the city may have to consider discontinuing use of the newer well, adding another layer of filtering or taking other corrective action.
“The main thing when people hear something like that, they hear arsenic, and it makes their skin crawl,” Coleman said. “It’s such a small small amount of it.”