TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The City of Tyler's water department announced Wednesday three major process changes are being made to improve drinking water quality. The changes, according to Wednesday's press release, should improve taste, odor and lead levels in your drinking water.
The announcement comes after several weeks of questions from KLTV about recorded spikes in lead levels documented by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Five out of 50 water samples tested by the city in September were identified as having levels over the state limit. TCEQ requires that cities and municipalities notify all residents who submit samples of their results within 30 days. On February 4, Tyler received a reporting violation from TCEQ for failing to send any notice to the 50 residents about the lead levels found in their drinking water.
In a February 10 interview, Tyler officials told us that they were beginning to interview those residents. When asked why it took so long to talk to residents about testing done back in September, Tyler Water Utilities (TWU) compliance engineer Clayton Nicolardi told us he would look into that issue.
On February 11, Tyler Public Relations Specialist Caroline Sanchez said, "TWU made a mistake in not notifying the five residents whose tests came back exceeding the required letter when [TWU was] made aware of the situation via a letter from TCEQ in October."
Sanchez also said TWU was unaware that that it was required to send the sample results within 30 days to the fifty homes that were tested for lead, including the five that came back over the state limit. Ninety percent of the samples tested in September were below the state lead level limit, which kept the city in compliance with TCEQ regulations. TCEQ does not require any corrective action unless the 90th percentile is over the lead limit.
On February 11, Tyler dispatched water crews to repair service line pipes connecting to water meters in front of some of the locations that had elevated levels.
Tyler officials say after these changes, new tests were done at the locations with elevated levels, which found that four of those five locations now test under the state lead limit.
In Monday's press release, the city said, "TWU is currently working with the TCEQ in organizing a more robust sampling protocol which includes approximately 300 sampling events for 2016 for lead and copper levels. These samples will be targeted at the customers' tap as well as surface water and ground water sources. Residential sampling sites are selected based on year of construction and the potential that they may have plumbing materials containing lead and copper."
Other process changes made by TWU include increasing the use of ozone, enhanced coagulation, and the addition of sodium hydroxide in the water treatment process, which started in November.
"The City is working with the TCEQ to identify alternative treatment strategies that rely more on the use of ozone for disinfection credit allowing for the reduction of disinfectants related to the formation of byproducts such as haloacetic acids and trihalomethanes," said Nicolardi on Monday. "The TCEQ was very helpful in expediting the approval process allowing TWU to begin implementing changes in November of last year. Significant improvements have been documented since."