Not a Drop to Drink

Todd Kleiboer, Web Editor

Students residing in Prairie Crossing voiced their questions and concerns at a town hall meeting organized by the Department of Safety and Risk Management Thursday in response to a water quality report in December 2015.

“Is the water safe to drink?” Safety and Risk Management Director Derek Preas said. “Absolutely it is without a shadow of a doubt. It doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good, but it’s safe to drink. My dogs, my family, my kids-we all drink the water.”

The annual water quality report released by the city and the university explained that the city’s water supply, both from underground wells and Lake Tawakoni, exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for haloacetic acids (HAA5) and total trihalomethanes (TTHM), both byproducts of water disinfection. The university’s water supply, chiefly pumped from underground wells, had no violations.

“The city has well water and some surface water, and as a general rule, the well water doesn’t react with the disinfectant to create the TTHM and HAA5…but it’s the surface water you should worry about. They [the city] have a different set of issues because of the surface water,” Assistant Director John Harris said.

Contrary to Preas’ remark, the report states that “some people who drink water containing haloacetic acids in excess of the MCL over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer” and “some people who drink water containing trihalomethanes in excess of the MCL over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, or central nervous system, and may have an increased of getting cancer.” The exact number of years or the exact increase in risk is not given.

While most of the university buildings’ water are supplied by the university’s wells, some of the outlying buildings are tied to the city water supply. Those buildings include not just Prairie Crossing, but Henderson Hall, One-Stop Shop, and Rayburn Student Center. No other residence hall is tied to the city water supply. The reasons for these supply differences are due to geographic and financial reasons.

“The one’s that are set up on city water right now are the ones on the border,” Preas said. “It depends on when we put that building on campus, where’s the closest tie-in? It would have been a nightmare to get Rayburn Student Center on the university water supply as well. When it comes to financial reasons, do you want to pay $100 to run that line [to the city supply] or pay $50,000 to get it on the university line?”

Students asked about the year delay between the release of the water quality report and the meeting, and Preas admitted to being complacent in his job when no complaints were at first raised by those living on campus and a professional oversight of the problem.

“It wasn’t until we got the third [report] that we’re like ‘hold on, this is the third one in a row. Let’s set up a townhall,” Preas said. “The very first question we got about this [report] was the very first day I met our newest President [who lived at Prairie Crossing for a while].”

The taste of the city’s water was also raised by students, and Groundwater Operator Keith Luke explained that there are differences between surface water and groundwater, both of which the city supplies to its residents.

“Groundwater and surface water have vastly different tastes,” Luke said. “If you’re used to drinking groundwater and you drink surface water, you’re going to swear that’s something wrong, and that’s because of mineral content and so on. It’s a groundwater versus surface water issue.”

The water quality report detailed the results of tests from January 1st to December 31st of 2015, and it is available to all students at