In the last two years, Oklahoma has cited several counties for health violations at 36 water systems.
The violators in Cleveland, Canadian and Oklahoma counties range from those who operate single-well systems serving a handful of public users to municipal water utilities serving thousands, The Oklahoman reported.
Michele Welsh, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality’s public water supply compliance manager, said many of the systems that struggle with treatment and maximum contaminant level violations are smaller systems that serve smaller populations.
Oklahoma requires public water systems to provide more than a dozen water quality tests to a lab of their choice for analysis each year. A state official inspects the labs once a year. When serious contaminants are detected above approved levels, systems are required to alert customers of the problem.
Patty Thompson, a public water supply group engineering manager for the Department of Environmental Quality, said that when a well is contaminated it’s taken offline until water samples are normal for two days in a row.
The Department of Environmental Quality’s budget cuts since July 2016 have forced the agency to scale back systems inspections from four times a year to once a year. The department has 62 people who inspect 1,600 public water systems statewide.
The state’s violations affected about 16 percent of Oklahoma’s population in 2016. On average violations took more than 200 days to correct.
Water quality and violations have become an issue nationwide after the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where more than 100,000 residents potentially were exposed to high lead levels in their drinking water.