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HPPR Health, Education & Welfare

High Plains Tap Water: Is It Safe To Drink?

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Much of the tap water on the High Plains may not be safe to drink.

The High Plains is hardly unique in this regard. However, some cities in the region have shown alarming levels of contaminants.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database, when most Americans drink a glass of tap water, they're also getting a dose of industrial or agricultural contaminants linked to cancer, brain damage, hormone disruption and other concerns.

For example, the tap water in Garden City, Kansas, contains 8 contaminants above safe guidelines. Amarillo, Texas’s water showed 13 major contaminants, including arsenic, chloroform, and radiological elements—all of which cause cancer.

For comparison’s sake, Amarillo's water was shown to have five more major contaminants than the tap water in New York City and six more contaminants than the water in Los Angeles. But Amarillo is doing slightly better than Lubbock, which tested for 14 contaminants above health guidelines.   

You can search the safety of the tap water in your city by going to the EWG database, here.     

A response from Brian McGovern, Media Relations Specialist at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:

As of Sept. 25, 2019, based on the TCEQ’s Water Supply Division’s drinking water compliance data, the cities of Amarillo and Lubbock are in compliance with state and federal drinking water standards.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is responsible for overseeing approximately 7,000 public water systems that provide drinking water to approximately 28,000,000 Texans. Federal and state regulations have set standards for 102 contaminants for microorganisms, disinfection by-products, disinfectants, organic and inorganic chemicals, and radionuclides.

The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations promulgated by EPA are legally enforceable primary standards and treatment techniques that apply to public water systems. Primary standards and treatment techniques protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water. All public water systems in Texas are required to monitor the levels of contaminants present in treated drinking water and to verify that each contaminant does not exceed its maximum contaminant level, disinfectant level, and/or action level. The TCEQ is committed to minimizing risks from drinking water contaminants by ensuring compliance monitoring and compliance determinations are identified on a weekly basis for chemical and microbiological drinking water standards.

Information concerning a public water system’s compliance with drinking water standards can be located on TCEQ’s Texas Drinking Water Watch webpage.