OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Midwest City has provided water to residents officials believed was safe for years. But a letter containing information about new water regulations may scare some into thinking otherwise.
Residents in Midwest City and other Oklahoma communities are receiving notices that their drinking water has problems.
The notices, required by federal law, stem from standards that took effect in January 2002 pertaining to all surface or well-water sources that serve more than 10,000 people.
Fifty-three water systems in the state fall under the law, said Monty Elder, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
Communities will have to lower two serious types of organic material _ trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids _ in the drinking water. Excessive amounts of those materials are linked to cancer, Elder said.
Bill Janacek, Midwest City's utilities supervisor, said the letter will scare residents, ``but we don't have any choice to publish this, except the way DEQ sent it to us.''
``It's hard to explain in layman's terms exactly what this is all about. The water we are providing them right now is the same water we provided them 30 years ago. It is safe. Nothing has changed.''
Officials are including another letter in the notices to residents to ease their concerns, Janacek said.
Midwest City is one of several water systems in the state that is not removing a high enough percentage of total organic carbon.
Trihalomethanes are formed when dissolved organic matter is exposed to a substance such as chlorine, a predisinfectant used by many water systems. That's one reason there's an emphasis on reducing organic carbon levels, Janacek said.
Seven Oklahoma water systems have excessive levels of trihalomethanes, and 12 are in violation of the haloacetic acids portion of the law, The Daily Oklahoman reported.
Systems in Bixby, Duncan, Shawnee and Wagoner County Rural Water District No. 4 are in violation of all three sections of the law.
McAlester, Broken Bow, Claremore, Lone Chimney, Poteau Valley Improvement Authority and Sequoyah County Water Authority are in violation of two sections.
Two of Oklahoma City's treatment plants are on one of the lists.
``We received a letter (on Feb. 7) from DEQ that we are preparing a response to,'' said Marsha Slaughter, Oklahoma City's water and wastewater utilities director. ``It's such a new issue that I really don't feel comfortable commenting. We owe DEQ a response, and we're working on that.''
Lawton, another system on the total organic carbon list, is spending $38 million to upgrade its water treatment technique and capacity, said Ronnie Graves, the city's assistant director of public works.
A carbon filter will be installed at the water treatment plant. That and the use of ozone as a predisinfectant instead of chlorine should result in a reduction of total organic carbon, Graves said.
Janacek said carbon filters are expensive to maintain and aren't financially viable for some systems.
In the interim, Midwest City will use a different testing procedure allowed under the law and try to comply in that manner.
``The real bottom line on something like this is the technology for chemical analysis has progressed at a far faster rate than the technology to upgrade water plants,'' Janacek said.
``We are in noncompliance, but I feel like we've done everything we can to get to the point we won't be. It just takes time.''