Pollution Levels Exceed EPA Standards in Many Texas Waterways

Oct. 12, 2007

A new report on water quality violations marking the 35th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act documents incomplete progress in protecting streams and rivers in North Texas from pollution.

The Environment Texas Research and Policy Center, an Austin-based advocacy and study group, requested compliance records covering 2005 for major dischargers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The records show how often a treatment plant exceeded its permit limits. The report found no water quality violations in 2005 by Dallas Water Utilities, the city system that operates two plants that discharge treated wastewater into the Trinity River.

However, it listed at least one permit violation each month by the North Texas Municipal Water District, which serves areas east and northeast of Dallas, and by the cities of Seagoville in Dallas County and The Colony in Denton County. Garland, in Dallas County, went over its permit limits in seven months during 2005.

In North Texas, the most recent assessment by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, published last year, found excess bacteria in the Trinity River's West Fork from Fort Worth, Elm Fork from Lewisville Lake, and Main Stem through downtown Dallas and to the south.

The bacteria come from a combination of natural sources, such as birds and wildlife, and human sources, such as wastewater treatment plants and septic systems, according to a state-sponsored study by researchers at Tarleton State University in Stephenville.

State health warnings against eating fish from the Trinity are due to lingering levels of banned chemicals in the fish.

Statewide, just over half of the 596 major facilities in Texas reported exceeding their permit limits at least once during 2005. That put the state 26th nationwide in the percentage of violators. Worst was Maine, where 82 percent were violators; best was South Dakota, with 30 percent.

Despite Texas' overall showing, Harris County led all U.S. counties in the number of major facilities reporting violations, with 96. Unlike North Texas, where industries generally use public treatment plants, the Gulf Coast has numerous industrial plants with their own discharge plants and permits.

Source: The Dallas Morning News