Tricia Cortez, Executive Director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, shared her concerns with the Express-News regarding the quality of water in our river.
When the river hits Laredo and curves toward the downtown international bridges, fecal coliform shoots off the charts. Following close behind is E. coli.
The Rio Grande is our only water source. To hear that raw sewage is ending up in the river is unsettling. However, I don't remember ever getting violently sick from the water I drink. Could it be that I've adapted?
I contacted Ms. Cortez to get more input as to what we can do to better protect ourselves and our precious natural resource. I asked her who is ultimately responsible for keeping our water safe when two countries depend on the river.
Yes!! The Rio Grande is a SHARED river. Both countries are responsible for monitoring the state of its water quality AND for ensuring that certain water quality standards are met. Unfortunately, that is not happening. In this particular case, we are talking about very high levels of bacteria that exceed U.S. and Mexican standards. If Nuevo Laredo were to connect all of its remaining drains to one of its two sewer plants (big one opened in 1996, and second one in 2009) then we might be able to have a much cleaner and healthy river. This must be a concerted bi-national plan, and I think pressure must really be applied by the U.S., Texas, and Laredo.
But bottom line, what’s needed is action from people in authority. We need a champion on the City Council, and we need a champion in the state Legislature. These are the people who can move things, and make plans turn into action.
Yes, our tap water is safe to drink. The city publishes an annual report and mails it to households. As far as I know, yes, our tap water meets state and federal standards for drinking water. The maximum contaminant level (MCL) that the U.S. allows in drinking water for coliform bacteria and E-coli is zero, and that is the case for our tap water.
Laredo’s water plant filters out ALL bacteria, including E-Coli. Also, most of these dangerous bacteria enter downstream from our water intake plant. FYI, E-coli is a substrain of the fecal coliform group and may be tested for, by itself. These harmful germs can cause diarrhea, dysentery, and hepatitis. BUT it is important not to confuse the test for the common and usually harmless E. coli with a separate test for the more dangerous E. coli O157:H7.