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Granite Shoals addresses water quality issues spotlighted by TCEQ

Granite Shoals Utilities Superintendent Joshua Hisey

Granite Shoals Utilities Superintendent Joshua Hisey addresses the City Council to explain 26 letters the city received from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2023 for water quality issues. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The city of Granite Shoals received 26 letters from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2023 for violations of water quality standards, failure to report required water sampling, and requests for mandatory reporting. As of January 2024, the city’s water meets state requirements and is safe for use and consumption, according to city staff, but a series of clerical errors, equipment failures, and understaffing issues put Granite Shoals under enforcement action from the TCEQ, which is tasked with regulating water-quality standards statewide.

During a City Council meeting on Jan. 23, Utilities Superintendent Joshua Hisey explained what is being done to remedy the water issues and how they came about. 

“We’re working with the state,” he told the council. “The water that comes out of the water plant is safe to drink, safe to bathe, safe to consume, do dishes in, wash the baby. It meets the state’s requirements.”

Hisey spent about a half-hour of the meeting delving into the 26 letters and why they were sent:

  • Five of the letters were for basic correspondence between Granite Shoals and the TCEQ. One of those was for a routine tri-annual investigation required by the state. Two were notifications for new standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Two were for notification of state requirements for an emergency preparedness plan, which the city will have officially met by May 2024.
  • One letter was for a complaint from a Granite Shoals resident about the water’s color. This issue was determined to be caused from within the resident’s home rather than the city’s system.
  • Two letters were for failure to submit required Water Quality Parameter samples in quarters one and two of 2023.
  • One letter was for failure to submit required copper and lead samples in the first six months of 2023.
  • Several letters were for routine license renewals.
  • The remaining letters were for exceeding maximum contaminant levels of disinfection byproducts in the city’s water.

Of the 26 letters, 11 were for TCEQ violations.

“I know that’s a big number, especially for our little city,” Hisey told the council.

In addressing the sampling failures, he explained that the city was notified by the TCEQ in 2022 that it would be required to provide more samples than usual in 2023. According to Hisey, these notifications were received by former City Manager Jeff Looney, who never shared them with the rest of the staff before he was fired in June 2022.

The notifications were discovered in September 2023, by which time, it was too late to submit the samples within the compliance window. 

The department has since complied with all current sampling requirements, Hisey said, and the most recent samples were found to be well below maximum lead and copper levels. A new notification system is now in place so multiple parties will be made aware of any correspondence with the TCEQ, rather than just the city manager.

He moved on to explain the violations of maximum contaminant levels of disinfection byproducts found in the city’s water, in this case, trihalomethanes (TTHMs). Certain locations within the city exceeded acceptable levels of TTHMs, which can cause health problems with prolonged exposure. TTHMs are a normal part of the chlorine disinfection process used in most water systems around the world, but they must be kept at manageable levels.

TTHM levels have been reduced since Granite Shoals received its violations, Hisey said.

“You would have to, at current levels, have 10 times the rate we have and then drink it every day for a year, and you might see something,” he explained. “We are nowhere near that. I just want to reiterate that our water is safe to drink and bathe in.”

Hisey took full responsibility for the series of issues and violations that occurred throughout 2023 but believes the city is on track to be in full compliance and provide better water in the future. 

Granite Shoals recently added a second clarifier to its water treatment plan, which Hisey said would likely remedy any lingering issues with TTHMs and water palatability. 

“I have confidence in Josh,” Mayor Ron Munos told in an interview following Hisey’s presentation. “I feel good that measures were put in place so that this doesn’t happen again.”