Officials in Texas insist there is no drinking water emergency and there is no need for alternative supplies.  But new tests in scores of communities in the conservative, "pro-business" state have tested positive for excessive levels of the carcinogen arsenic - just like they have for more than a decade.

"Safe" levels are set by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which calls for arsenic in drinking water to be no more than 10 parts per billion (ppb).  But the Environmental Integrity Project's (EIP) new reports (.pdf link) says the state government has not addressed demonstrably dangerous levels of arsenic in the water systems of 34 communities for at least ten years.  These serve at least 51,000 people.  In addition, 31 other community water systems serving another 30,000 people have been in violation of the federal arsenic standard for at least two years, according to data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Long-term exposure to arsenic is linked to:  neurological disorders; cancer of the bladder, lungs, kidneys and other organs; and numerous other health problems.  Short-term arsenic exposure can have increased effects on children.

"Whatever their intent, the Texas health advisories suggest to these residents that it is safe to drink water with so much arsenic it flunks Safe Drinking Water Act standards," said EIP executive director Eric Schaeffer.  He wants federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to "step in and require Texas to issue clearer warnings and do more to fix the problem". which Mr. Schaeffer compares to the "drinking water tragedy in Flint, Michigan".

Meanwhile, a former EPA official defended her record in a nasty hearing in congress over the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. 

"I don’t think EPA did anything wrong, but I do believe we could have done more," said Susan Hedman, who resigned in January as director of the EPA regional office in charge of Michigan.  Members of congress criticized her for not responding more forcefully when she learned last year that a special chemical was not added to Flint's water supply that would have prevented the city's pipes from corroding and leaching lead.

Of course, the chemical would not have been necessary, had Michigan's Republican governor not decided to switch Flint from the world's largest fresh water supply, the Great Lakes, to the corrosive and polluted Flint River to save a few dollars.