Wolfforth officials have expected to someday receive a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about fluoride in the city’s water supply. On Monday, March 3, that day arrived.
Wolfforth City Manager Darrell Newsom said he received a letter from the EPA ordering the city to lower levels of fluoride in its water within 18 months. The letter was dated Feb. 21.
According to the EPA letter, the maximum allowable amount of fluoride in water is 4 milligrams per liter. Wolfforth, the letter states, has several wells producing water ranging from 4.68 milligrams per liter to 5.58 milligrams per liter.
This letter came a few years after another letter from the EPA. In July 2011, the city received a similar letter regarding arsenic in the city’s drinking water. The order instructed the city to fix the problem within 18 months. Wolfforth was later given an extension to complete construction of a water treatment center.
Newsom said the city is six to eight months away from completing the new water treatment center, which will use an electrodialysis reversal system, or EDR, from General Electric. This new system will also treat for fluoride, which the city knew would be a problem.
One big difference in the two letters, Newsom said, is that the EPA did not threaten the city with daily fines if Wolfforth did not comply on the fluoride issue within 18 months.
The silver lining in the letter is that Wolfforth will have a water treatment center capable of dealing with the problem in six to eight months, Newsom said. In deciding what to do about the arsenic issue, he said the city decided to also treat the fluoride problem to head off future EPA problems.
“We just felt like eventually they’d get around to it,” he said.
Newsom said in calling around, he has not heard of other communities that have received the EPA letter regarding fluoride, but he said he expects even more communities to receive that same sort of letter in the near future because fluoride is a more common problem than arsenic in West Texas.
He said it is a “sad story” that many rural towns may not have the resources to build a water treatment center like Wolfforth is building.
“Some of these communities cannot afford the EDR,” he said.
Water that has been through reverse osmosis is available at City Hall for families with young children.
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Note from FAN: The fluoride levels in Wolfforth’s water have exceeded EPA’s MCL since at least 1997, and the arsenic levels in the drinking water have exceeded allowed levels since 2006. According to a 2007 report prepared by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:
“The Wolfforth Place/AIM Water Company PWS recorded fluoride concentrations ranging between 4.4 milligram per liter (mg/L) and 6.1 mg/L between July 1997 and July 2002, exceeding the fluoride MCL of 4.0 mg/L. Arsenic concentrations of 0.0123 mg/L and 0.0185 mg/L were recorded between July 1997 and January 2001, which exceed the 0.010 mg/L MCL for arsenic that went into effect on January 23, 2006 (USEPA).”