North Texas Municipal Water District responds to criticism from environmental activist Erin Brockovich


In response to a circulating Facebook post from California-based environmental activist Erin Brockovich questioning the district’s methods of chlorine maintenance, the North Texas Municipal Water District said in a news release Thursday that the district’s water is safe and complies with regulations from state and national environmental agencies.

The NTMWD provides water to about 1.7 million people in 10 counties, including Plano, Frisco and McKinney in Collin County.

Brockovich posted Wednesday from her official Facebook account criticizing the district’s practice of using two disinfecting chemicals, chlorine and chloramine, which is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. In the past, she has raised questions about the same methods in water districts supplying other Texas cities, including Austin and Houston.

The water district is nearing the end of its annual chlorine maintenance phase, which was expected to take place Feb. 26 through March 26. In advance of the monthlong process, district officials said tap water remains safe to drink, although some customers may notice a chlorine smell or taste.

In its news release, the district said the most commonly used disinfectants for water treatment are chlorine, chloramine and ozone.

“NTMWD, like many water providers, uses all three [disinfectants],” the news release states. “Ozone is the most powerful disinfection process and chlorine is used to ensure the water remains safe as it moves through the pipes throughout the regional and local system.”

Brockovich claims the practice of using chlorine causes byproducts, including trihalomethanes, to form that are toxic but are “just not yet regulated.”

Mike Rickman, deputy director of operations and maintenance at NTMWD, said that water quality and safety is a top priority and that the district works closely with officials on a local, state and federal level.

“This is a safe and scientifically proven method to ensure that treated water remains safe as it moves through the distribution system,” Rickman said.

The district said routine monitoring of bacteria, disinfectant and other “parameters,” including trihalomethanes, occurs during the chlorine maintenance period. The samples are collected by water operators licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and analyzed in accredited laboratories.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the name of a water district official. His name is Mike Rickman, not Mick Rickman.

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  1. Here what Mick Rickman will not tell you about the use of the word “safe.”

    For most of us we believe that “safe” means FREE FROM RISK as written in the dictionary.

    Why don’t you ask Rickman what his and the NTMWD definition is?

    It something like: The Director of the National Academy of Science share with me in an email exchange: Dr. Jim Riesa, “Your statement that “the public definition of ‘safe’ is ‘free from risk'” is not supported by science. The word “safe” is not a scientific term; it is a judgment that is essentially political. It usually implies that the risk is acceptable or inconsequential, not absent.”
    Now you have figure out when research was done to determine “acceptable or inconsequential, not absent.”

    Guys like Rickman and, in fact, anyone from the sewage industry are nothing but con artist.

    Question: How much RISK are you willing to take with your family and friends? Hows your immune system?

  2. Tammy Parkinson

    Can you tell me what Erin Brockovich has to gain by spending hours upon hours of research on water safety & reporting the dangers of these Chlorine Burns across the country?? The sad truth is most consumers would have NO idea just how dangerous their water is if it wasn’t for Erin advocating for us. It’s irresponsible how these companies are choosing to “clean” our water supply. I’m disgusted by all levels of government reporting that what they are doing is safe. It’s NOT enough. People are being poisoned & this should not be happening in this country.

  3. And who oversees the individual water companies when they do pipeline repairs for broken pipes? I know NTMWD has spacific instructions for disinfection procedures when repairs are needed. From what I’ve seen, these instructions are not being followed.

Krista Wadsworth is the managing editor for Community Impact Newspaper’s DFW editions. After serving as a reporter and then managing editor for a daily newspaper in Northeast Texas, she moved to the DFW area and joined CI as an editor for the Frisco edition, which she helped to launch. Krista was named the DFW managing editor in 2015 and oversees the editorial content for the Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Grapevine|Colleyville|Southlake and Lewisville|Flower Mound|Highland Village editions.
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