Municipally owned water treatment plants have been storing hazardous chemicals near hundreds of Central Texas schools. While a fix could make the facilities safer, there are no immediate plans to implement that fix, according to ABC affiliate KVUE.
The City of Austin stores hundreds of tons of chlorine gas inside the Albert Davis Water Treatment Plant, which is less than a mile away fro Casis Elementary School, potentially endangering the school’s 800 students.
Austin Water uses the chlorine gas it to kill bacteria in the water in order to make it safe to drink, however EPA has listed it as one of the extremely hazardous substances, Jane Burazer, the assistant director for water treatment plants in Austin, told KVUE.
Unfortunately most Texas parents are unaware of the risks posed to their children.
According to a new report by the watchdog group Center for Effective Government, "3,206,006 students attend school within the vulnerability zone of a high-risk chemical facility," KVUE reported. That averages to about three in five students in the state.
There have been a string of recent accidents in Texas involving chlorine gas, including a derailed train carrying the gas outside San Antonio 10 years ago. The accident created a cloud of chlorine gas that killed three people and sent 50 more to the hospital.
EPA reports at least 12 accidents at water treatment plants in Texas since that time.
There are ways to treat water that are safer than using chlorine gas. About half of Austin's facilities use either liquid bleach or ultraviolet light to treat water, methods that pose little to no threat to human health, according to KVUE.
The state would like to convert its remaining water treatment plants to the same technology. However, the estimated $60 million cost of conversion has thus far proved prohibitive to the affected municipalities.