Technician says mixing acquifer, lake water eases radium situation

Hickory Underground Water Conservation District representative Stan Reinhart, along with City of Brady representatives Gary Broz and Matt Mills, attended the Region F Regional Water Planning Group meeting on Monday, May 22 in San Angelo. A technical workshop was conducted in the meeting that highlighted future water plans for Region F and each entity that pumps water out of the Hickory Underground Water Supply. Thirty-two counties are zoned in Region F including Brown, McCulloch, Mason, Scurry, CrocketT and as far west as Pecos County. Geographically, it’s the largest of the 16 regions in the state. A technician representing Alan Plumber and Associates, Rex Hunt, discussed the radium content in the water source and the bio-lateral compliance with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC). Freeze and Nichols and Associates is the primary consultant firm that develops the water plan; however, the company sub-contracted the water plan out to Alan Plumber and Associates. The company conducts various studies on the water plan for Region F. A primary focus in the meeting was finding a solution to reduce the radium content in the Hickory water supply. The Hickory Aquifer is known to have elevated levels of Radium 226 (alpha emitter) and Radium 228 (beta emitter). In 1976 the Safe Drinking Water Act was passed and later amended in 1991 and 1996. In November 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will take steps to adjust limits for the amount of Radium 226 and 228 allowed for water supplies. Currently, EPA standards set by the federal government state that the maximum contaminant level allowed for combined Radium 226 and 228 is 5 pCi/l. If changed, the amount allowed could be increased or decreased dramatically. Both radioactive elements are found primarily in groundwater. Should the EPA adopt new radium levels this year, TNRCC will be given up to two years to adopt the levels at which point they can either be the same or more stringent. In the meeting, consultants highlighted the positive aspects of the City of Brady’s proposed $9.4 million water treatment facility. According to Broz, Hunt added that the combination of two water sources is an excellent remedy to alleviate high radium content. “Blending is probably the most efficient and cheapest way to handle the situation. By blending we can get the radium content down below the federal standards and don’t have the problem of handling highly radio active material,” said Reinhart. Another topic discussed in the meeting focused on agricultural water shortages. The region-wide shortages of water has caused extensive damage to the Texas agricultural industry. With the aid of charts and graphs, consultants demonstrated what crops prosper best in areas prone to drouth, including cotton, grain sorghum, corn, wheat and peanuts. “Our farmers are really doing a good job with the situation,” said Reinhart. “They simply need a good rain to boost their crops.” Also addressed in the meeting were future sites for reservoirs. Eleven sites were discussed for possible new reservoirs for Region F. On a closing note, Reinhart added, “there are several other communities that blend surface water with ground water to meet safe drinking standards. It’s important to access surface water because it is essentially replaceable.”

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