Residents of Rural Water District No. 2 in Keys are complaining they have noticed discoloration in their water for the past week or so.
This is reportedly due to broken water lines. One community member said she reached out to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality because of the water at her house.
Cherokee County resident Melissa Jumper said her water has been discolored for the past 10 days and she had not received any information from RWD No. 2.
“Why do we pay for water to be treated and get dirty water two to three times a year?” asked Jumper. “Not an hour after my complaint to the hotline, the RWD was at our main line, trying to flush the lines.”
Jumper talked with the RWD employee working near her house and was informed there have been multiple breaks recently in the district’s water lines, causing discoloration and sediment.
“We’ve not been notified of these breaks, and have not had a boil water order ever,” said Jumper.
After talking with a DEQ representative, Jumper was sent a copy of the 2020 consumer confidence report, which covers the calendar year 2019. She said she normally receives reports in October. It is not yet available on the RWD No. 2 website, but is on the DEQ website.
The first page of the report informs residents that although they weren’t emergencies, the RWD No. 2 water system violated drinking water requirements over the past year.
“Results of regular monitoring are an indicator of whether your drinking water meets health standards. During the following monitoring periods, we did not complete all monitoring or testing for the following contaminants, and therefore cannot be sure of the quality of your drinking water during that time,” the report states.
One nitrate-nitrite sample was required during 2019, and it was not completed. The last sample of this regulated contaminant was Feb. 23, 2018, and the highest value was .0974 parts per million. The maximum contaminant level allowed is 10 ppm.
According to the Water Quality Association, the primary sources of organic nitrates are human sewage and livestock manure, and the principle sources of nitrate contamination in water are fertilizers, animal waste, and septic tank wastes. Nitrate in drinking water can be responsible for a temporary blood disorder in infants called methemoglobinemia, also known as "blue baby syndrome."
For each of the months of July and October 2019, 186 samples showing turbidity were required and none were submitted. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness of water. It is used as an indicator of water quality and filtration effectiveness. Higher turbidity levels are often associated with higher levels of disease-causing microorganisms, such as viruses, parasites and some bacteria, states epa.gov. These organisms can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches. Nephelometric Turbidity Unit is the measure of the clarity of water.
For the 2018 calendar year, RWD No. 2 had violations of drinking water regulations due to failure to submit operation evaluation level reports for HAA5 (haloacetic acids) and TTHM (trihalomethanes) during the compliance periods of Dec. 30, 2017-July 10, 2018, and April 1-July 1, 2018. HAA5 and TTHM are disinfection byproducts that are caused by disinfectants reacting with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter present in water. The maximum contaminant levels are 60 parts per billion for HAA5, and 80 ppb for TTHM.
The 2020 report shows that in 2019, RWD No. 2 had a running annual average (RAA) of 30 parts per billion of HAA5, with a range of 13.9-64.3 ppb; and a RAA of 44 ppb of TTHM, with a range of 19.7-86.9 ppb. In 2018, the highest RAA of HAA5 was 59, with a range of 18.1-58.2 ppb; and the highest RAA of TTHM was 80, with a range of 25.4-56.4.
According to the EPA, “some people who drink water containing trihalomethane in excess of the MCL over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, or central nervous system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer; and some people who drink water containing haloacetic acids in excess of the MCL over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer.”
Jumper, who last lost one child to pediatric cancer, had other questions: “Where will it be in a year? Five years from now? How many people will have to get sick? When will we get clean water and a treatment plant that can ‘keep up?’”
A call to the RWD No. 2 board chairman was not returned by press time.