Radiation - CRIME!


Texas politicians knew agency hid the amount of radiation in drinking water

by Mark Greenblatt / KHOU 11 News


Posted on May 19, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Updated Thursday, May 19 at 10:17 AM

HOUSTON— Newly-released e-mailsfrom the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality show the agency’s top commissioners directed staff to continue lowering radiation test results, in defiance of federal EPA rules.

The e-mails and documents, released under order from the Texas Attorney General to KHOU-TV, also show the agency was attempting to help water systems get out of formally violating federal limits for radiation in drinking water. Without a formal violation, the water systems did not have to inform their residents of the increased health risk.

“It’s a conspiracy at the TCEQ of the highest order,” said Tom Smith, of the government watchdog group Public Citizen.  “The documents have indicted the management of this commission in a massive cover-up to convince people that our water is safe to drink when it’s not.”

Smith is talking about what happened to residents who live in communities served by utilities like Harris County Municipal Utility District 105.  For years, tests performed by the Texas Department of State Health Services showed the utility provided water that exceeded the EPA legal limit for exposure to alpha radiation.     

However, the TCEQ would consistently subtract off each test’s margin of error from those results, making the actual testing results appear lower than they actually were.  In MUD 105’s case, the utility was able to avoid violations for nearly 20 years, thanks to the TCEQ subtractions.  

On Dec.  7, 2000, the EPA said in the federal register that states should not add or subtract the margin of error, also called the counting error, from test results.   

In an e-mail from Oct. 30, 2007, a TCEQ drinking water team leader began questioning a senior director about if it would be appropriate for the state agency to stop subtracting the counting error from test results to comply with all federal regulations.  

She was told, “I believe there may been some EPA guidance on not subtracting, but can’t remember back that far for sure. This has been the practice in Texas since day one of radionuclide monitoring.   This option was thoroughly discussed with the commissioners and the (executive director) staff when the reg was being adopted. We were directed to maintain the current methodology for subtracting the counting error at that time.”

Three years earlier, the same TCEQ director presented written testimony on behalf of the TCEQ to the Texas Water Advisory Council. The testimony notes that the TCEQ was aware of the new rules the EPA published on Dec.  7, 2000, saying the federal agency had “issued guidance for calculating radionuclide levels for compliance.”  

However, the TCEQ also told the Council: “Under existing TCEQ policy, calculation of the violation accounts for the reporting error of each radionuclide analysis. Maintaining this calculation procedure will eliminate approximately 35 violations.”

As a result, the subtracting method continued and residents of MUD 105, like Brenda Haynes, were never sent a required notice of violation. That notice would have informed them about the excessive alpha radiation in their water.  

Alpha radiation is emitted from radionuclides such as uranium and radium. While health scientists have said it poses little danger if someone is externally exposed to it, the experts maintain that ingesting even the smallest amount of the particles can cause damage to DNA, and in rare cases, cause cancer.

Haynes came down with thyroid cancer while living in the MUD 105 district and continued drinking the water even after she was diagnosed.  Although she will never know for certain if the water had any connection with her illness, Haynes and her husband are angry that they never were given appropriate notice about the added risks she was taking into her body while sick.

“We were put at more risk than what we thought,” said Ian Haynes, who added he and his wife would have been making different choices about what they consumed had they been warned. 

The Texas Water Advisory Council, which reviewed and discussed theTCEQ testimony at a meeting on June 7, 2004, was comprised of some of the highest ranking public officials in Texas.  Minutes from the TWAC’s annual report reveal that the members present that day to hear about TCEQ’s plan included then-chair of the TCEQ Commission Kathleen Hartnett White, then-Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Sen. Robert Duncan, and other lawmakers and state leaders.

The I-Team sought comment from Sen. Duncan, then the chair of the Council, but he did not return KHOU-TV’s phone calls. 

A spokesperson for Commissioner Patterson wrote KHOU-TV to say, “I’ve checked with Commissioner Patterson and sent him the report and he doesn’t remember “squat” about that committee,” wrote press secretary Jim Suydam. “He won’t be calling you.”

Commissioner Combs has since left her position in the Department of Agriculture and become the state’s comptroller.   She also declined to speak personally with KHOU in regards to this meeting.
However a spokesperson sent the following to KHOU on her behalf: 

“Comptroller Combs hasn’t been the Agricultural Commissioner for 4.5 years.  Susan’s role on the advisory council back then was to represent rural Texas, primarily on water issues (drought, water rights).  SB 2 which established the water advisory council was to look (at) water issues facing the state, it had no regulatory authority.  The state experienced severe droughts in 1998, 2000 and 2004-2006. The issue you are talking about was handled by the TCEQ.”

However, a review of a meeting summary from the June 7, 2004 Texas Water Advisory Council shows Combs asked several questions during the meeting, including a number of questions about issues involving TCEQ’s implementation of the new EPA rules on radionuclides. 

The meeting summary says that “Commissioner Combs stated small towns are going broke,” and further says, “Commissioner Combs askedwhat would the feds do if the state didn’t enforce.”   The minutes indicate that someone at the meeting said there would be federal enforcement and loss of primacy.

At the same meeting, the summary says that the EPA had already warned that if Texas didn’t implement the rules, the EPA might take over the regulation of Texas water systems.   The notes say that as a result “Texas will lose $66 million if delegation of the drinking water program is lost.”

But despite the EPA’s warning in June of 2004 of potential loss of primacy, by December, the Texas Water Advisory Council issued its annual reportto the then-speaker of the House, the lieutenant governor, and Gov. Rick Perry, saying:  “However, this result (the loss of primacy) is unlikely. Of the 49 states with primary enforcement responsibility to administer their drinking water programs (Wyoming is not a primacy state), EPA has never withdrawn primacy status from any of them because the federal agency views both withdrawing primacy and withdrawing funding as options of last resort.”

Under federal law Texas and other states are only allowed to enforce EPA rules, according to the Safe Drinking Water Act, if the EPA determines the state has adopted drinking water standards that are “no less stringent” than the federal rules.   

After the annual report of the TWAC was delivered to the Speaker,  Lieutenant Governor, and the Governor, the TCEQ continued their policy of subtracting the margin of error from the result of each water-radiation test, until an EPA audit caught them doing so in 2008.   The state has since complied with the EPA regulation.   

Then Chair of the TCEQ Commission Kathleen Hartnett White, who also sat on the Texas Water Advisory Council, says the decision to continue the subtraction was a good one. 

“As memory serves me, that made incredibly good sense,” she told KHOU.

White says she and the scientists with the Texas Radiation Advisory Board disagreed with the science that the EPA based its new rules on.  She says the new rules were too protective and would end up costing small communities tens of millions of dollars to comply.

“We did not believe the science of health effects justified EPA setting the standard where they did,” said White. She added, “I have far more trust in the vigor of the science that TCEQ assess, than I do EPA.”

In response to questions about why the TCEQ did not simply file a lawsuit against the EPA and challenge the federal rules openly in court, White said that in federal court, “Legal challenges, because of law and not because of science, are almost impossible to win.”

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst did not respond to written questions related to this story.  The only comment from his office came from a spokesperson  who wrote: “Just FYI—I’m told by our legislative staff that Texas Water Advisory Council was created in 2001, but was repealed in 2007.  Evidently, the statutes creating the council made it clear that that it was an advisory board only, so they made no decisions.”

A spokesperson for  Governor Perry said the governor expects the TCEQ and all state agencies to follow all the laws that are on the books, which the spokesperson said the TCEQ began doing after that 2008 audit by the EPA.   

The governor’s spokesperson did not respond to written questions from KHOU asking if the governor supported the TCEQ’s decision in 2004 to continue with the subtraction in order to help 35 water systems stay out of trouble.   

The EPA was contacted for comment and at press time has yet to provide any response.

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Comments: Displaying 1 - 15 of 24

ellieba said on May 23, 2011 at 11:00 AM

SB875 had too much opposition until they limited it to just the Greenhouse Gases. However, those include Methane (CH4) and some other controversial gases. This methane includes the kind that comes off a gas well. The Duke University study, The DEP of Pennsylvania, Quitman, Ark as well as plenty of folks in our own state recognize that there are big issues with methane found near gas well drilling activities and have found plenty of causal evidence to trace it, in spite of the tales that our other regulatory agency has spun to the Feds recently. Methane contamination will be the next scandal and if this bill passes then the accountability of the perpetrator will severely diminished. Who will pay? The government entities that allowed it; i.e. Joe, the taxpayer, and the victims who were contaminated.

ellieba said on May 23, 2011 at 10:47 AM

Oppose SB875, authored by Senator Fraser, is an amendment to the water code -- We need BIG Media ATTN to this Bill -- Contact your Reps TODAY -- and Oppose SB875 or it might be passed tomorrow. I was told Friday that it was a DEAD bill, but they pulled it our at the last minute. It is aimed at defending against the EPA – it will block the EPA from setting guidelines for our safety. We’ve all seen instances of the EPA seeming to be too over reaching, but do we want to be left at our state's regulatory agency's mercy, with their great track record?

tequilarose said on May 22, 2011 at 3:06 PM

My question is why are we receiving a WATER BILL from MUD #105 ???? In some cases a bill with a notice attached not to drink the water and to pass the information along. Who will reimburse us for buying water? What about washing clothes, dishes and bathing? hmmm, pretty scary stuff. Someone has got to help make this right and it better be soon. Thanks to KHOU for getting this much out in the open. Please continue.

reanekey said on May 20, 2011 at 9:35 PM

excuse me....it will cost communities, and it is mutating and causing cancer, where in the hell did the radiation come from in the first place? Industry so it should cost industry and the politicians and bureaucratic entities who are suppose to be doing their jobs that aren't to pay personally out of their pockets for mitigation on these matters and for the cancer for each individual they are responsible for have let this happen to. When will any of you b%*strds be held accountable, why are you ever elected or paid a pay check.

ATS-TX said on May 20, 2011 at 3:51 PM

As a trained statistician I am horrified that TCEQ would subtract the margin of error from test results for radioactivity in drinking water. The test results are what they are, and they could just as easily be underestimating the amount of radiation as overestimating it. Kathleen Hartnett White's justification for tampering with the objective results—"I believe in local first, state second, federal government third"—is a statement of political ideology, pure and simple. Texans need to wake to the extreme anti-government ideologues who have been running the show up in Austin. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was up for sunset review this year, and our Republican-controlled legislature actually weakened it.

chrissy76 said on May 20, 2011 at 1:21 PM

This is what happens when citizens let their government get too big! Google: Agenda 21 WE THE PEOPLE ARE BEING SLOWLY KILLED.... GMO Crops, Chemtrails, vaccines, fluoride, Japan Radiation, Gulf Spill- Corexit

slackermom said on May 20, 2011 at 12:08 AM

Don't be angry at the politicians!! They're just doing what Rockefeller told them to do. Do you know what Rockefeller thinks about the world's population???????

karoakequeen said on May 19, 2011 at 9:48 PM

Make all the politicians including Rick Perry and all the others involed in this long standing cover up drink the tainted water for a yr. I always wanted to see crooked politicians GLOW IN THE DARK. They can run but they can't hide.Lol

enderspath said on May 19, 2011 at 3:27 PM

The law on the books versus the science. Well considering scientists and their lies...not sure is we will ever know the truth.

ru4crzn said on May 19, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Where is our ATTY General on this? and why isn't KHOU asking where they are? This is a crime, and somebody(s) need to go to jail for this. If I knowingly have Aids and I don't tell my partner before having sex, I can be arrested, as I can kill you. Isn't this the same thing?

bgstrong said on May 19, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Both the TECQ & EPA should be completely disbanded..

texasak said on May 19, 2011 at 12:14 PM

Of course they did - and know that we know, do you think they care? Why...what are we going to do? Revolt or wait wait...."Vote 'em out" lol...right, cause the next turkey in office will be better, not crooked and faaaar more trustworthy right? I mean, just look at Congress - there's some good eggs in there. Oh wait, yeah they are crooks & liars too. But again, what are we gonna do - revolt? Not when we have pizza delivery & HD TV we aren't! We are our own worst enemies.

rukiddin said on May 19, 2011 at 10:11 AM

now this is a BIG surprise - Tx politicians hiding something - omgawd!

retiredtexan said on May 19, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Don't these idiots in the TEOQ drink the water? I have two wells on my property, but are they safe? I'm nor sure any more, scary.

timebandit said on May 19, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Texas politicians knew agency hid the amount of radiation in drinking water.............WELL DUH !

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