TCEQ Investigating Naphthalene as Cause of San Angelo Water Woes

AUSTIN, TX — The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) said tonight that the City of San Angelo Water Utilities system was distributing tap water that smelled like mothballs.

The TCEQ said that the City of San Angelo notified the state regulatory agency Monday (Feb. 8) afternoon that 50 residents of the PaulAnn neighborhood on San Angelo’s northeast side reported the water smelled like mothballs. The chemical in mothballs is called naphthalene.

One resident told us the smell was, “horrible, like burned mothballs.”

The federal Environmental Protection Agency in a 2003 report warned of naphthalene in water supplies. Some of it, in very low quantities is normal, particularly in urban water systems. However, the EPA noted that coal tar production and distillation processes may cause naphthalene to be released into surface water.

In addition, “The primary discharge source is residential combustion of wood and fossil fuels. Other residential sources of naphthalene include tobacco smoke and the vaporization of moth repellants. Naphthalene may also be released to air during coal tar production and distillation, aeration processes in water treatment plants, and from use of naphthalene during chemical manufacturing,” according to the EPA study.

San Angelo’s primary water source is Lake Ivie, a surface water reservoir. Water into Lake Ivie comes from the Concho River. Water is piped back into the San Angelo water treatment plant from Ivie. Secondary sources of water are Fisher Reservoir, directly from the Concho River, or ground water from the Hickory Aquifer.

The City is waiting for the test results of the water samples sent to the TCEQ before making further announcements about the water safety.

For now, the TCEQ confirmed that they are suspicious of naphthaline and are assisting the City to determine the source and causes of the odor.

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