Activist Erin Brockovich plans Plano visit amid water quality concerns

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich announced she'll visit Plano next month in her ongoing battle over water quality.

Her announcement comes as officials with the city of Plano and the North Texas Municipal Water District met with concerned citizens on Tuesday.

Officials explained why the routine water maintenance is safe and has been done for decades. They said the process has not changed. However, residents at the meeting still weren't buying it.

People who are concerned about the water say they feel validated by Brockovich's involvement. She announced on Facebook that she’s going to Plano on April 5 and will be bringing her own water expert with her.

There was not supposed to be public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, but North Texans who are concerned about chlorine and ammonia in their water still spoke up.

More than 7,000 North Texans have joined a Facebook group called "Safer Water North Texas" complaining that their water smells like chlorine.

Water district representatives told council members that using chlorine and ammonia, or chloramines, as disinfectants to kill bacteria and viruses in water is normal and safe, as tests show.

"We did indeed test on Thursday. Test results came in on Friday,” explained Tom Kula, the North Texas Municipal Water District Execute Director. “We made those test results available to the city, so we are going to make that available to the public tomorrow."

The maintenance process involves turning off ammonia to let chlorine flow. In a statement, the water district admits, "the odor of chlorine may be more noticeable," during this process.

A statement from the EPA says those disinfectants have been used by water utilities since the 1930s, stating, "Water that contains chloramines and meets EPA regulatory standards is safe for use."

"I drink the water, take showers, everything else,” said Plano City Councilmember Rick Smith. “And I'm still here as far as I know."

Jamie Stephens is concerned that council members are not taking concerns seriously enough.

"We're having real reactions. And certainly, maybe you've done this process over and over again, but there's something about this year that is different,” Stephens said. “Something is happening, and it seemed a little minimized."

"We think the water is healthy, but if people want to drink bottled water or run it through a filter, they're more than welcome to do so,” said Jerry Cosgrove, Plano director of public works.

But with water concerns and complaints pouring in, Plano city leaders are going to take action to prove the water is safe.

"We're going to go ahead and take some samples and have them tested,” Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove said the water flowing into homes and businesses is not harmful, despite the smell and slight taste of chlorine for some customers.

"This is not unusual. Not everyone does it, I know the City of Dallas doesn't do it but most people in the State of Texas who use chlorine as a disinfectant do go through a chlorine maintenance period,” Cosgrove said.

Water district representatives say the only thing that might be different about water maintenance this year is that water consumption is down so less water is getting flushed out.