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The city of Devine, Texas, located about 40 miles southwest of San Antonio, has warned its residents of high levels of asbestos present in their water. For apparently close to a year, the levels have been too high, so a letter was sent to customers on November 28.
According to the letter, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) says “the drinking water being supplied to customers had exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for asbestos.”
The water samples taken from January to July had 14, 17, and 18 million fibers per liter (MFL). Due to the effects of asbestos exposure, the maximum amount permitted is 7 MFL. Another reading revealed 44.3 MFL. Two samples from last year were also over the limit. Samples from 2015 were all below 0.2 MFL.
“We hope it’s just a sampling problem not that the contaminants were there,” said Devine Mayor Bill Herring. “We’re not like the city of Corpus Christi. We were not told by TCEQ to shut the water off. If it was danger to the people of Devine, then we would’ve shut it off.”
The city’s letter also notes, “This is not an emergency. However, some people who drink water containing asbestos in excess of the MCL over many years may have an increased risk of developing benign intestinal polyps.”
“Sounds scary, doesn’t it?” said Herring. “Benign means noncancerous, intestinal polyps. That’s why you have a colonoscopy to check it out. But again, I feel certain that this spike is hopefully caused by just a sampling problem.” He does not believe asbestos water pipes are the cause.
Resident Michelle Cashion stated, “I don’t want my one-year-old daughter, and I’m pregnant, I don’t want to be drinking water with asbestos level that’s not healthy, you know. That’s not safe.”
Resident Mickie Schulze said, “Most people are like me. They’re pretty level-headed and they understand. There are a few people that were like spazzing out because they thought what was going on in Corpus was happening in Devine.”
The city’s letter indicates customers don’t need to use a different source of water. In the meantime, the city is “researching the issue and will address it as soon as possible.”
Resident Cashion added, “How could this be something that is OK? That they [the city] can just send a letter and say ‘you know, it’s not at a healthy level, but we’re looking into it, but go ahead and keep drinking it for now’?”
“There are many theories of why it [high asbestos levels in the water] happened. All of them are good. All of them are incorrect. We just don’t know. I don’t want to come across that we don’t know what caused it, but that’s the truth. We don’t know what caused it,” said Herring.