City of Hugo Not Compliant with Safe Drinking Water Act

Posted in: Drinking Water News, United States Water News
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Photo Credit: Kten Texoma

Article courtesy of Texoma| Aug 10,2015 | KTEN |Shared as Educational Material

HUGO, OKLAHOMA — Concerns over the city’s drinking water skyrocketed earlier this week when environmental activist Erin Brockovich posted a photo on Facebook of a boy sitting in bath water, provided by the city, that’s a dark brown color.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has had similar concerns for months.

“Currently the city is not in compliant with the (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act,” said Erin Hatfield, a DEQ spokeswoman.

The city received notice in June, that Severn Trent, the company it contracts with to supply its water, failed to use enough chlorine for more than 300 days in the past two years, which could potentially expose residents to harmful bacteria.

The inspection of Severn Trent’s plant was conducted in February, and although DEQ has issued its notice of violation, its investigation continues.

“We can not say with 100 percent certainty that the water is safe to drink until our investigation is complete,” Hatfield said.

There is no time line for the investigation, but Hatfield said drinking water standards are built with many protections, so it is possible to be out of compliance without posing an immediate threat to the public.

Though test results have not prompted a boil advisory since May, residents remain water weary.

“Our three year old has had staph twice, and the second time she got it, the doctor said it’s most likely from bathing in the water,” said Joanie Cochnauer, a Hugo resident. “We started buying bottled water and at least heat it up to room temperature level to give her a bath in.”

Store shelves are emptying quickly of bottled water, But the city maintains the water is safe. Interim Hugo City Manager David Rawls said Hugo has spent tens of thousands of dollars upgrading the system since the report.

“They have inspected,” he said, referring to DEQ. “They’ve told me that the water is safe to drink. It’s in the parameters that they test for and check for.”
City council members voted to terminate the contract with Severn Trent two years early. Litigation between the two is ongoing.

At the conclusion of DEQ’s investigation, either the city or the company could face financial penalties. Either the Choctaw County District Attorney or Oklahoma Attorney General could file criminal charges.

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