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01/16/2020

This piece originally ran in August.

This piece originally ran in August.
Just over a year ago, a little known state agency called the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) was rocked from top to bottom when it ordered a company for the first time in its history to clean up nearly 300,000 pounds of arsenic contaminated groundwater in the Houston suburb of Humble.
The incident made national headlines due to the number of children who got sick and the lack of a comprehensive plan put in place by TCEQ to remediate the arsenic in the drinking water.
Since the start of the year, TCEQ has faced questions about whether it acted appropriately in Humble and whether the agency has a long-term solution to dealing with arsenic contamination across the state, even though the arsenic is well beyond the point of repair, according to the environmental group.
“The current crisis in Texas illustrates the huge gaps in current law and regulation,” said Lisa C. Davis, head of the Texas chapter of the Sierra Club, in a statement. “What’s needed is a systemic overhaul.”
RELATED: Texas is an American disaster waiting to happen
According to a TCEQ employee and sources who spoke with the Houston Chronicle, the agency did not inform the community until after about two weeks after the initial findings.
In a letter sent to residents in March, TCEQ said it was aware that arsenic was showing up in samples and it would be taking action based on that initial test.
“While arsenic did not meet state or federal drinking water standards, based on past experience, TCEQ has determined that it is not a concern to the public and it is not safe to drink the water in the impacted area,” according to the letter in part from TCEQ General Counsel Susan Barton.
Residents in the area, including Humble residents, were then informed they needed to get their water tested for arsenic. TCEQ did inform residents of Humble that a test was planned, but they were never told of the results of the test, the employee told KHOU. So instead, they were notified of the plan of action they needed to do when TCEQ’s officials came to their doors, according to both TCEQ and the employee.
But instead of being taken to the site of the contamination, residents were directed to a different address in the city. Residents were told to contact TCEQ to get tests done.
A number of residents of the area have complained about the confusion after they got the letter and found out they had to go somewhere else.
“They came to me and said, ‘If you didn’t come to me to get a drinking water test done, you’re not going to get a water test done at TCEQ,'” said resident Stephanie Nail, who had her water tested after getting a letter from TCEQ.
Citing privacy concerns, TCEQ is still not providing a number residents can call to get testing done. The agency is also not telling residents when their water tests will be done.
“This is really frustrating because it’s very easy to do,” Davis, of the Sierra Club, told the Houston Chronicle. “It’s just that TCEQ isn’t doing it.”
RELATED: The U.S. EPA is making Texas poison itself
After KHOU pointed out TCEQ’s lack of transparency over arsenic contamination, a