Water is one of the major news issues around the Hill Country lately: the Water that is not falling as rain, the Water that is keeping many yards green and lush, the need to drink lots of Water when you have to be out in the heat, the Water that some cities are about to run out of to meet their residents critical needs, and even the quality of the Water that the City provides from the wells into the Hickory Aquifer. As we are notifying our citizens in other places in this paper, Mason has just reached a Critical, Level 2 water conservation level and is beginning additional water restrictions. We will be monitoring water usage and issuing warnings for the next couple of weeks, and beginning July 11 we will begin issuing citations and fines for wasting water or outdoor watering at the wrong times. We have redefined the watering schedule and simplified it, and now we are limiting outdoor watering to just once a week and only between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. to avoid excessive evaporation from the heat of the mid-day. If there is no significant rain in the next couple of months we may have to move to a Level 3 Water Rationing stage, but we believe that with your help and cooperation we may not need to move to that restrictive stage. We at the City hate to have to limit our citizens from doing as they wish, but sometimes for the good of the whole community it is necessary for us to adapt our habits to help our neighbors. Water conservation may best be summed up by a one of my favorite nature quotes: Treat the earth well,It was not given to you by your parents,It was loaned to you by your children.American Indian ProverbAnother water situation we at the City are working on is the annual Consumer Confidence Report that we send out to inform our customers of the water quality we provide. Each of our water customers should receive a copy in the mail in the next few days, and if you would like a copy and do not receive one just stop by the City office. The City of Mason provides mostly very good water, but we continue to have a compliance issue with the level of Radium 226 and Radium 228 in our water. This past year we had readings of only 5.8 to 6.4 picocuries per liter in an area where the maximum level set by the EPA is 5 pCi/L and so we feel that we are continuing to manage our water supply to provide the best water that is reasonably possible. These radionuclides are a result of the erosion of natural deposits in our rock and soils and are transferred into the groundwater we pump from several wells in town. They are a continuing problem throughout the Hickory Aquifer that Mason and several other communities to the north and west of us rely on for water, and some communities have as much as 30 pCi/L, but they are not a new problem. The Hickory Underground Water District commented on the radionuclide levels in a recent newsletter and stated, “In 2000 the EPA adopted the revision of these standards originally established in 1977. Prior to that revision, this area was in compliance. As a matter of fact the July 18, 1991 issue of the Federal Register proposed increasing the standards to 20.0 pCi/L.” The water that we have in Mason averages just 6 picocuries per liter and according to some experts the radioactivity levels in common consumables are substantially higher. “For example, whiskey is 1,200 pCi/L, beer is 390, milk is 1,400 and salad oil is a whopping 5,000 pCi/L.” The effects of radionuclides on human health have not been studied extensively, but it seems from what I have been told that the correlation between radium and various cancers or other health issues are questionable and controversial, and the decision to set the standards where they are was somewhat arbitrary. We at the City continue to work to provide our community with the best water available, and we are eager to find some way to meet the standards that would fit into our limited budget.One way we are trying to provide completely clean water is to install a Reverse Osmosis distribution station that would be available at no charge to all of our residents. The building is complete and we are just waiting on a determination from the regulatory bureaucracy that this is acceptable as a part of our public water system. We know that it will not treat all of our water and thus will not bring our system into compliance, but it is intended as one step in meeting the citizen expectations for clean drinking water. I started inquiring about the needed acceptance last fall and have spent many hours answering questions and writing inquiries, and just last week I was told that a final determination should be made next month. As soon as the regulatory agencies approve, we will purchase and install the right equipment and announce the availability of treated water to everyone who wishes to stop and get it. This is only one step in our overall plan to provide clean and pure water to our customers, but be assured that we are doing all that we can afford to meet your expectations for an excellent water supply. If you have questions or concerns, please contact the City office and we will provide answers to the best of our ability, and if you would like to express your ideas or worries to the City Commission we will have a public hearing on this issue before our regular meeting on July 11. Mason is a great hometown and we continue to work to improve our resources. It may be that some of the yards around town may not be as green in a few weeks, but together we can save some of our precious water and provide a better hometown for our neighbors and the future.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley