In Texas, about 500 water utilities have tested positive for a weed killer with known negative health effects. Atrazine, an herbicide, is used to fend off weeds especially in warmer seasons, when it’s easier for weeds to grow. The environmental working group (EWG) from EPA that reported these findings discovered, however, that these water utilities were testing for impurities in the water during times when they know that herbicide use is low. The amount of water utilities with the toxin present, therefore, may be even higher than the current reported numbers. Across the United States, approximately 30 million Americans are drinking water with atrazine present. In Texas alone, about 10 million people are currently affected.
Currently, water utilities in Texas report their results to TCEQ. By intentionally not testing the water during times of high usage of herbicides, the facilities can stay within the TCEQ regulations. The TCEQ uses third party contractors for sample collection, and the agency says that “the monitoring [will] increase to a quarterly basis if atrazine levels rose above the EPA’s maximum contaminant levels or above the regulatory detection limit.”
Under the Safe Water Drinking Act, each state must adopt regulations at least as strict as the regulations imposed by EPA. Currently, the limit is set at 3 ppb (parts per billion), but the EWG says it should be 1/30 that, or 0.1 ppb. Until the regulations are changed to disallow the strategic and deceptive timing of the samples to hide the spikes of chemicals in the drinking water, the public should be made aware of increased levels of toxins and the potential health effects, such as birth defects in the children of mothers who drank water with high atrazine levels. The Safe Water Drinking Act hasn’t been updated in 22 years, and many experts in the regulatory camp think it should be updated to increase safety for consumers. Under the 1996 version of the Act, “only annual averages of atrazine need to be reported.” With more stringent regulations, higher levels of atrazine in the drinking water can be avoided and the added risk to human health can be eliminated.