ANDREWS — As part of a compliance agreement with state and federal agencies, Andrews is considering installing reverse osmosis water systems in every household in 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 [click here].
Andrews’ arsenic rate is 30 parts per billion and federal standards are now 10 parts per billion. Fluoride standard is four parts per billion and, depending on the well tested, Andrews is at just over four, City Manager Glen Hackler said.
Last summer, the city council set a goal of achieving cost-effective compliance. Andrews approached TCEQ about installing under-the-sink reverse osmosis units in every household and commercial establishment. Officials approached TCEQ about the possibility of installing under-the-sink reverse osmosis units in all 4,413 households and commercial establishments as a means of compliance.
“We’ve estimated cost of that at $1.5-$2 million and the annual operating and maintenance expense at about $120,000-125,000 — about 20 percent of full -blown centralized treatment,” Hackler said.
The average minimum Andrews water bill, including sewer and sanitation, is $36.90 per month and Hackler said the city discussed adding $2 to that to help pay for under-the-sink reverse osmosis installation.
However, he said U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, has requested the federal government pay about one-quarter of the capital expense. Implementation would take about three years and a contractor would be hired to do it, but the city would likely hire a couple of people to maintain it.
“West Texas water bills are, generally speaking, the lowest in the state,” Hackler said. “We know our water is among the cheapest in the state” at $1.40 per 1,000 gallons.
Recently, TCEQ approached Andrews about conducting a demonstration project that would test six different technologies to lower the arsenic and fluoride levels in the city’s water.
“That’s going to take place for 30 days in the month of June. We would hope by late fall to early winter to have a full-scale pilot program involving approximately 40 households, probably a quarter in each quadrant of the city in which homeowners voluntarily participate in an intensive 90-day under the sink r/o pilot program,” Hackler said.
“Based on those results, if we have shown that this is both practical and cost effective, we hope to propose to TCEQ that we be allowed to implement this as a compliance technology,” he added.
Ninety-three Texas cities have arsenic issues and hundreds have different elements that out of compliance with state and federal regulations. Of the 93 cities, two-thirds of those are between Midland, Odessa and Lubbock. “It’s naturally occurring … in our aquifer. It’s also a common problem in literally thousands of small communities in the western half of the United States,” Hackler said.
Andrews operates and maintains a reverse osmosis water station next to City Hall. “We notify the public quarterly and by other means that free r/o water is available to the public. Should they have concerns about their drinking water, we have annual public meetings that we are required to make available and generally do not draw anyone at those meetings,” Hackler said. “Since the arsenic issue was introduced, we may have one or two people comment or call with questions.”
While water standards have changed, Hackler said, the quality has not and city officials do not see a health and safety concern.
“(Otherwise) we would have years ago adopted some type of mechanism for compliance,” he said. “Our primary responsibility always is protection of public health and safety.”
Andrews City Manager Glen Hackler said the city has among the lowest water rates in West Texas. Comparable towns and rates follow:
Andrews: $1.40 per 1,000 gallons
Big Spring, $ 2.57 per 1,000 gallons
Fort Stockton, $1.99 per 1,000 gallons
Lamesa, $3.30 per 1,000 gallons
Monahans, $1.75 per 1,000 gallons