JARRELL, Texas -- After a notification that their water contained higher than safe levels of fluoride last week, residents in the Sonterra community in Jarrell finally got their chance to talk to officials about it.
The community was sent a state-mandated letter after their water sources measured higher than 4.0 milligrams per liter of fluoride, the EPA mandated maximum.
Monday night, leaders with the Sonterra Municipal Utility District (MUD) held their already scheduled board meeting and allowed an extended public input session.
"What board member lives in this community?" Sonterra resident Jeff Carter said.
"Why, once the well went offline that was within the limits and you guys knew that the well that's offline now at 4.7 was way over the limit, would you decide to put our health at risk?" another woman asked.
"We need to move forward as a community," Romeo Ramon said to the board, "but we need to hold ourselves accountable."
Mother Morgan Taylor called the board to consider a special session in 7-10 days that would allow residents to have more chances to discuss the situation with the board.
"I have two bottles of water right here," she told the board. "One is filled with the water from my faucet that you provide to us. One filled across the highway with potable water. Do you trust me with your health? Do you trust me and would you drink and would any of you drink from either of these bottles not knowing which was which?"
Before the meeting, Sonterra Mud Manager Andrew Bilger spoke with KVUE's Jason Puckett. He said he understands the residents concerns and acknowledged that the water supply had exceeded the EPA limit in the past year. He couldn't say how many days or months that might have been because they didn't test for fluoride each day.
Bilger said that the MUD was currently confident in the drinking water in the Sonterra community and that they've begun testing it daily of their own volition.
"We are 100 percent within compliance," he said, "and we've done everything that the state requires and we've gone beyond that in our short term, long term and future planning."
Bilger admitted that the utility group could have done better at communicating with residents. He said that they'd sent out the initial letter from the state but failed to follow it up with any communication of their own explaining their work on the situation.
He wanted residents to know that the MUD is working on the problem. He explained that the higher levels of fluoride had been a result of a breakdown in their current, fluoride compliant wells. When one would break, they would need to bring in water from a third well that had a higher-than-safe level of fluoride.
The MUD, he explained, had already created a fourth well that would ideally be opening soon and help dilute the fluoride. Additionally, they had a second well in the works and were in the process of bringing in a new water source from surface water that had no fluoride.
"I think the lesson for us is, if you're working hard but not communicating - then it's not happening," Bilger said. "In the end, we can't go backwards but moving into the future we think we're much better prepared and we stand behind our water source in Sonterra."
Despite this explanation, many residents were still frustrated, asking the utility group why steps weren't being taken faster, if there were other available sources they could bring in, or if the group could supply an alternative water source until the new projects are complete.
Bilger informed residents that since the water is currently under the 4.0 mg/L mark, they are not in an "emergency" situation and are not legally required to provide a separate source.
TAP HERE for FAQ information Sonterra MUD supplied regarding fluoride.
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