6 Investigates: Creek County Water Contamination Issues Ongoing For Years

Wednesday, July 23rd 2014, 6:14 pm
By: News On 6

We have learned a water problem in Creek County is more widespread than first thought.

We told you on Tuesday that thousands of rural water district customers were notified about elevated levels of contaminants in their drinking water that could cause cancer.

6 Investigates reporter Jennifer Loren went to the source of the contamination and found out the issues have been going on for years.

"I don't like rinsing my dishes in this water..." Mary Rice said.

Rice lives in rural Creek County and says she always suspected their water was bad. But then she got a letter saying it had exceeded the standard levels for chemicals that can cause cancer.

"Oh my gosh,” she said was her reaction. “Uh oh. I've been drinking this water. I have diabetes and I take medicine for it and I've got to drink this water. I don't have money to buy water."

7/23/2014 Related Story: Creek County: Drinking Water Violates State Safety Standards

State regulators insist, even with the contaminants, the water is still safe for people to drink, but the letter says infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems could be at an elevated health risk and they should contact their health care providers.

Rice's elderly mother, who uses the same water, has cancer.

"And she has to drink water constantly... as a matter of fact she was put in the hospital Tuesday for dehydration,” Rice said.

At Lake Heyburn, near Kellyville, is where Creek County Water District 1 gets its water.

The water is treated there and pumped to several area water districts, many of which are now having the same contamination problems.

DEQ Statement

It's not just Creek County District 1 and 2, it’s Districts 3 and 4 also, and a long list of other water suppliers throughout Oklahoma.

They're all reporting elevated levels of trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids -- byproducts of water treated with chlorine and naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter already in the water.

In a spillway where the water comes out of Lake Heyburn and goes to the water treatment facility, there’s not a lot of water is coming out right now. It is July and that is what they say can be part of the problem.

The longer water is exposed to heat and pipelines, the more vulnerable it is to the contaminants forming.

But that doesn't explain why the water districts just sent out the letters, when some of them show the water has had elevated levels of contaminants since January 2012.

"Why are we just now finding out about this problem?" said Gary McGuire, Creek County Rural Water District No. 1 Manager. "You need to call the EPA number or the DEQ number because we asked the same question."

McGuire said the feds at the Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators at the Department of Environmental Quality were trying to figure out who should regulate the water testing, and in the meantime, failed to send letters alerting districts they had elevated levels of contaminants.

"And while they were getting that all ironed out, we were still producing water and everybody that took samples that was over the limit nobody got a letter until they got that all ironed out, and then all of the sudden everybody got a letter,” McGuire said.

Mary Rice doesn't care whose fault it is. She just wants water that's safe to drink.

"Fix it! Fix it before it gets worse," she demanded.

DEQ confirms about 100 water systems in Oklahoma are having these same water quality issues.

If you are worried about your water and want to know if this affects you, you should call your water supplier and ask.