Drinking water concerns: Council demands EPA answers after KPRC 2 investigation

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter , Debbie Strauss - Special Projects Producer

HOUSTON - When Gina White saw our report, showing one of the water facilities with the highest levels of chromium-6 in Houston is on her street, she asked why.

READ AND WATCH OUR REPORT ON CHROMIUM-6

“That's not very far away, so I don't like the idea that it is that close,” White said.

Council member Steve Le represents part of 77099 District F. He's also a doctor.

“I very much appreciate Channel 2 for making the citizens aware of the situation,” Le said.

Le wants to make it clear that the drinking water meets current Environmental Protection Agency standards and he says it's safe.

He said he’s reaching out to the EPA to find out why the highest levels of the carcinogen, chromium-6, found in the Houston area are in his district.

“There are stories of people who may have developed cancer in the past and they want to see if there's a connection. That's why we wanted to reach out to the EPA to have second eyes and ears to look at this situation,” Le said.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR DRINKING WATER FREE OF CHROMIUM 6

He's also suggesting people living in his district filter their water.

“In my house we do just have a regular carbon filter,” Le said. “If you can afford a reverse-osmosis system, then do it.”

Council member Mike Laster also represents part of 77099 District J.

“Everything that's been told to me is that our drinking water is safe and people ought not to be frightened but should be vigilant, be concerned,” Laster said.

Channel 2 investigates has learned the city does not regularly test for chromium-6. The last time was in 2014.

INTERACTIVE MAP TO CHECK YOUR WATER

“I think it would be helpful if we could do that because that way we could see if we can find the same level of numbers over time and I think that would be, from a scientific basis, more helpful to us,” Laster said.

Now, both Laster and Le will ask Public Works to resume testing for the toxin.

“We are going to keep an eagle eye on these numbers and we are going to continue to work closely with Public Works to make sure that our health and safety are of utmost concern and that our water continues to be as safe as possible,” Laster said.

There is currently no set law on the amount of chromium-6 allowed in drinking water in Texas. The EPA said they are working on a draft of guidelines scheduled for release in 2017.

Congressman calls for investigation after KPRC 2 story

After the Channel 2 Investigation into Chromium-6 in drinking water aired, Congressman Al Green sent a letter to the EPA to investigate drinking water in his congressional district of Houston.

He wrote in part, "I have attached herewith a copy of a news story recently run by KPRC Channel 2, a local news channel in Houston, that outlines drinking water concerns in Houston. I share these concerns and firmly believe that we should take prompt corrective actions when a credible threat is identified."

READ GREEN'S LETTER TO THE EPA

In a statement, Green said, "The health and safety of All Americans is a priority, especially as it relates to our drinking water. Evidence of harmful chromium-6 levels must be investigated. To this end, I am sending a letter requesting the EPA to investigate the circumstance presented by KPRC Channel 2. I am also asking EPA to accelerate its integrated risk information system (IRIS) assessment of hexavalent chromium. 

"I have supported and will continue to support legislation in Congress to strengthen the Safe Water Drinking Act, such as H.R. 4470, The Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act, which was passed in response to the Flint, Michigan water crisis."

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