ANDREWS — When Permian Basin Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Tasa Watts was notified she would get a reverse osmosis water unit installed in her home, she was extra surprised.
While she had been chosen at random for one of the systems, which are part of an Andrews pilot project to see how the units work to reduce arsenic and fluoride in its water, she had not signed up for the drawing. Her neighbor, co-worker and Andrews City Council member Flora Braly had done the honors for her.
Both Watts and Braly are now two of 40 Andrews residents who have the units, along with two businesses, Willow Creek, a nursing home, and El Portrillo, a restaurant. Cost is $10,000 for the units and $5,000 for testing. The goal was to get 10 homes from each area of town.
Since the late 1980s, Andrews has been in a compliance agreement with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about elevated fluoride levels in water. The city’s arsenic rate is 30 parts per billion and federal standards is now 10 parts per billion. Fluoride standard is 4 parts per billion, and depending on the well tested, Andrews is just more than 4, City Manager Glen Hackler has said.
Watts, who drinks water, milk and juice, had an r/o system when she lived in Midland and bought cases of bottled water in Andrews. “There’s not even a comparison,” she said of the difference in water quality with the reverse osmosis unit. “It was horrible and now it’s wonderful.”
Others in town feel the same way.
“It’s just good drinking water out of the tap. Before, I had to buy bottled water. It makes great tea and great lemonade. It’s a quiet unit,” said Earlene Broyles, who works in County Judge Richard Dolgener’s office. She added the water previously had a “twang” to it.
Melissa Welborn, assistant to the Andrews Independent School District superintendent, said she drinks about a gallon of water a day. She used to buy a couple of cases of bottled water every two weeks, filled jugs at a city site where you can get r/o water and used a distiller for purification. “Outside of the new garage door, it’s the best thing I’ve ever had put on my house,” Welborn said.
“I’m just so grateful,” she added. “I was surprised (to be selected) mainly because I thought everybody in town would sign up.”
Braly said she’s hoping residents will like the r/o water so much they’ll drink fewer sodas and be healthier. She added it “speaks volumes” that the city gave everyone a shot at an r/o unit, and if this project is successful, all residents will get one.
“I think every city should do this,” Braly said. “We realize it’s a cost factor, but water is the life of a city. … We want people to know we’re working to secure water rights and quality of life for our community.”
The city is testing the units daily this month. Weekly testing starts in April, then biweekly after 60 days and after that once a month for a year-long period, Andrews Assistant Director Water Distribution and Sewer Collection Bert Lopez said.
This means there has to be a certain trust level between city workers and those chosen for the study. “This is Andrews,” Broyles said. “It’s not like it’s perfect strangers. This is a close-knit community. We know things about each other.”