Political Abyss

Houston, There’s Something in the water. No Seriously, There’s Radiation in your Tap Water

In CONTROVERSY on December 12, 2010 at 7:50 am

By Maurice E. Duhon, Jr.

Recent picture of a Houstonion who chose to swallow the tap water while bathing and brushing his teeth.

Houston, Texas, has the esteemed pleasure of being the 4th largest city in the United States.  Unfortunately, Houston now holds the shame of being the only major Texas City to reveal levels of radioactive elements such as uranium and radium in its drinking water.  I have recently learned hundreds of water companies along our Gulf Cost pump water that contains some form of radiation.  The problem with Texas; Water tests all across the state have shown dangerous levels of uranium and radium are not considered “normal water radiation”.   These Alpha Particles, referred to by scientists, found in uranium and radium are extremely dangerous if ingested and introduced to human organs. These radioactive particles go even further, once digested, to attack the human body’s DNA structure.

According to David Ozonoff, Expert of Drinking Water & Health at Boston University, “The Alpha Particle is the 800lb gorilla of radioactive particles.  Once Alpha Particles meet with your body’s cells, these cells can inhibit and promote cancers within one’s body.”  If you are in need of a second opinion, I’ll offer you a statement released by our nation’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  “… a single alpha passing through a cell is sufficient to induce a mutational event.”

Once Houston’s channel KHOU 11’s news team launched an investigation into the state’s water testing results, some residents were sent a letter “some-what” explaining the situation with a bold print that read, “THIS IS NOT AN EMERGENCY”.  Homeowners and tax payers supplied with this radioactive water would beg to differ. 

Texas’ drinking water tests in Harris County Municipal Utility District #105 in 2008 and 2009 revealed Alpha Particle contamination of drinking water at levels that exceeded the Environmental protection Agency’s legal limit.  Other state tests have exhibited Alpha Particle levels in drinking water in other districts such Harris County Municipal Utility Districts 238, 105, 23, the city of Katy, and others. 

One local water system, the Suburban Mobile Home Park 2, continued to violate federal legal limits for Alpha Radiation in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who holds the power to govern a compliance with federal regulations, allowed the drinking water to continue to flow out of Texas resident’s tap for years, even though the mobile home park consistently provided test results containing extremely high readings for alpha-particle activity and uranium.  I use the term “extremely high” due to the fact the EPA, back in 2000, set a “zero-threshold” allowance for radionuclides or the MCLG (Maximum Containment Limit Goal).  Common potential contaminates in drinking water such as copper, selenium, barium, chlorine residuals, trihalomethanes, and many others pose less of a threat and are not radioactive, and thus they have goals set above zero.

Is Houston’s large and overwhelming expansive territory the cause for this radioactive dilemma?  Any progressive big city is going to run into these kinds of problems at some point, right?  I mean, other cities whom compare with Houston, in general size and population, probably have this same problem also, right?  WRONG…  New York, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, Corpus Christie, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, New Orleans, Portland all have no known amounts of Alpha Radiation in 2009.  Although, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, and Phoenix were cited as having some amounts of Alpha Radiation above the levels the EPA recognizes, there is still little comfort within this controversial subject for Houston.  A national science-based, public-interest organization, The Environmental Working Group, recently studied the water quality of 100 major cities in the United States.  Houston can be found at the bottom of the list, ranked 95th out of 100, garnering the label of one of the “Lowest Rated Utilities” in America by EWG.  The EWG cited radioactive particle levels as the primary reason for Houston’s low ranking.

Let it also be stated, the city of Houston’s head offices have long been aware of this problem and the information currently being disclosed.  The data and test results that have come to light have only become public knowledge due to the Houston’s KHOU investigators diligence and commitment to gaining information on this crisis.  In response to KHOU’s inquiries, city spokesperson Alvin Wright released a written statement claiming “we have not detected… any reason for concern based on the levels detected.”  The results of the state drinking water tests, their corresponding municipal districts, and past federal level violations were only made public following KHOU’s filing of a request for information using the Texas Public Information Act. 

Please allow me to share the following with you.  If you ever find yourself in an America whose state or federal government is planning to repeal its form of the Information Act; you should use that as your cue to “exit left stage-even” (in a SnagglePuss voice, i.e. Hanna Barbara reference).

The very person in charge of overseeing water safety and supply for the entire state of Texas for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or TCEQ stated on record, the chances of Houston residents being affected by cancer due to the radioactive particles is unlikely due to the fact these alpha particles are a naturally occurring element. 

I am no Rocket Scientist, but I do however hold a Master’s degree from the University of Common Sense.  I must stop time and speak to you on a personal level because there are forces of ignorance that are beginning to harm the general well-being of decent and moral people like you and I.  Telling the American citizen to not fear a radioactive matter because it is a natural occurrence is tantamount to instructing your child to lock into an “eye-stare”  with an approaching grizzly bear because that’s how you stand your ground and show ‘em who’s boss.  End result, your child is eaten and you should be brought up on charges of child endangerment immediately following the funeral.  This “natural occurrence” argument is something you will repeatedly hear in our government’s, both state and federal, climate control and global warming debates.  Case and point, in response the question of whether or not to reduce our country’s carbon dioxide emissions in order to conserve our planet’s atmosphere, Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) chose to answer in the form of a question.  The distinguished Congressman stated, “So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?”   Point made and case closed.  I am no Mr. Wizard, but I am sharp enough to be aware of the existence of Radon.  Any of you who were born or lived in our country’s east coast area will be familiar with Radon also.  Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas.  Radon occurs naturally and also, coincidentally, is the decay product of uranium.  Epidemiological evidence shows a clear link between breathing high concentrations of radon and incidence of lung cancer.   According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer.  Natural radon can be found in high levels in the state of Iowa and in the Appalachian Mountain areas in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Many cities within the state of Iowa have passed requirements for radon-resistant construction for new homes.  Homes in these regions are even tested for radon prior to purchase, in fear of the federal and state recognized health risks involved with this “naturally occurring gas”. 

The American people are not as daft and dumb as some in power chose to believe.  In the year 2010, 2011, and the years to come, it is no longer sufficient to spurt out some “talking point” or “a failure to comment”.  If the very person supposedly in charge of our state water’s safety and supply is aloof to the concepts of water contamination and supply then I deem her un-fit to perform her duties.  She is either ill-informed or is lacking in continuing education courses for the very job she has been asked to do.  If she is unable to carry out her duties then she should be replaced by another woman, man, child, or ferret that holds the mental capacity and moral ethics one needs in order to be sucessfull in such a position.  I am choosing not to divulge her name in hopes that she can have a fair chance to develope some sense of self-accountability and moral character before the phones begin to ring.  If my callous assumption of her character is not correct, I can only come to the dreadful conclusion that she, in charge of Texas’ Drinking Water Safety and Supply, and the body whom appointed her to that position, the Texas Committee of Environmental Quality; I can only surmise the simple fact that, like so many others in a position of power and responsibility, they are either afraid of the solution or just simply don’t care.  I tell you here and now with the utmost sincerity, I am no cynical pessimist; but I must regrettably believe the latter to be true.

In closing I leave you with this list of radioactive contamination solutions courtesy of Houston’s KHOU 11 New Staff.

The City of Houston provided the following list of practical engineering measures that can be implemented to reduce or diminish our water’s radiation contamination levels.  The City of Houston also informed KHOU that none of these solutions are currently in place at any locations around Houston.

Treatment technologies for Removing Radionuclides from Drinking Water

(as provided by the City of Houston to KHOU)

Most of these are on EPA’s list of Best Available Technologies for compliance with the Radionuclides Rule.

* Ion exchange (for removal of uranium, radium, and polonium)

*Reverse osmosis (for removal of uranium, thorium, radium, and polonium)

*Lime softening (for removal of hardness, radium, and uranium)

*Green sand filtration (for removal of radium)

*Co-precipitation with barium sulfate (for removal of radium)

*Air stripping (for removal of radon)

*Granular activated carbon (for removal of radon, uranium, radium, lead, and polonium)

*Electrodialysis/electrodialysis reversal

*Pre-formed hydrous manganese oxide filtration (for iron, manganese, and radium)

*Activated alumina

* Enhanced coagulation/filtration (for iron, uranium, and polonium)

* Nanofiltration (for removal of uranium, radium, lead, and polonium)

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