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Drought And Conservation Driving Water Contamination In Duncan

Oct 7, 2014

Duncan’s water supplies are already in bad shape because of the drought. Lake Waurika — Duncan’s main water source — is only about 32 percent full, and city officials are beginning to look toward groundwater as a lake levels continue to drop.

And if it weren’t enough for water supplies to be stretched to their limits, now the water itself is contaminated.

From The Oklahoman‘s Silas Allen:

Results of wage quality tests in Duncan between July 2013 and July 2014 showed elevated levels of trihalomethanes, a type of contaminant that appears as a byproduct when water is chlorinated. Although the contaminant levels exceeded standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the city’s water is safe to drink for most people, said Scott Vaughn, the city’s public works director.

The main culprit is the drought. Lower water levels mean greater concentrations of the pathogens chlorine is used to kill. But part of the problem are the very conservation measures the city put in place to extend the life of its water sources.

Another part of the problem, ironically, stems from the success of the city’s water conservation efforts. As reservoir levels dropped, city officials implemented water conservation measures. The city is under Stage 4 water restrictions, which limit outdoor watering to one day a week.

Residents responded well to those restrictions, Vaughn said, so demand for water dropped. So water spent more time sitting in pipes, which compounded the problem, he said.

The paper reports the short-term risks from elevated trihalomethanes are minimal, but that consistent exposure over the course of decades could cause “liver, kidney or central nervous system problems, according to the EPA.”

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