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GCGCD won’t make comment on arsenic issue
by Coy Slavik, Advance-Guard Editor
Apr 13, 2013 | 677 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GOLIAD – At its April 1 meeting, the Goliad County Groundwater Conservation District issued a statement of “no further comment” when questioned about possible inconsistencies in information the board has released about high levels of arsenic in water wells across the county.

According to the minutes from the Feb. 18 GCGCD board meeting posted on the GCGCD website, the GCGCD stated it had no data prior to 2012 of arsenic levels in the southern part of the county exceeding EPA standards.

But the Advance-Guard, after filing a Freedom of Information request with the GCGCD, obtained water well tests conducted by the GCGCD as far back as 2005. The information showed 33 wells, all of which were tested by the GCGCD before 2012, exceeded the EPA standard of .010 parts per million (10 parts per billion), which is the standard used by the GCGCD.

When asked March 19 by the Advance-Guard if all 33 wells found by the GCGCD to be exceeding the EPA standard were not in the southern part of the county, GCGCD secretary/treasurer Barbara Smith said, “They are from all over the county.”

The Advance-Guard asked the GCGCD in February about a letter it sent out to landowners informing them of high arsenic levels on their properties. The letter mentioned only testing data from 2012.

“That letter was specific to the Arsenic issue in the Southern part of Goliad County and the District had no data prior to the testing in early summer of 2012,” the GCGCD replied in an email to the Advance-Guard.

After receiving the GCGCD’s reply, the Advance-Guard submitted the following question to the GCGCD on March 28:

“How can the GCGCD support its claim that it ‘had no data prior to the testing in early summer of 2012’ when some of these 33 wells tested by the GCGCD before 2012 were in the southern part of the county?”

GCGCD President Art Dohmann claimed at the April 1 meeting that the board had already answered the question.

“I would entertain a motion that our response is no further comment,” Dohmann said to the board.

The board unanimously approved the motion.

The Advance-Guard submitted questions to the GCGCD to be answered at its March 18 meeting. In one of the questions, the newspaper listed the 33 wells that the GCGCD tested and found levels of arsenic above the EPA standard.

The GCGCD refused to answer the questions during open session of the March 18 meeting. The morning before the meeting, Smith emailed the Advance-Guard, “Your questions will be addressed under correspondence.”

Among the questions the newspaper emailed to the GCGCD on March 14 was “How many GCGCD board members own property where arsenic test levels do not meet EPA standards?”

The GCGCD answered March 21 in an email, “The board does not address personal questions.”

The question was prompted after GCGCD Vice President Joe Kozielski objected to the Advance-Guard’s publishing public comments made by the GCGCD about high arsenic levels in water wells in the southern part of the county.

“I can’t sell my property now that you put it in the paper,” Kozielski said while slamming the Jan. 16 edition on a table during the GCGCD’s Jan. 21 meeting.

According to the Texas conflict of interest law published by the state attorney general’s office, “Every time a local public official participates in contracting with his or her governmental entity or owns real property that may be affected by that entity’s actions, the official must consider whether his or her discussion, decision or vote on an item will violate either Texas conflict of interest laws or local conflict of interest provisions.”

The Advance-Guard also asked the GCGCD if Dohmann had adhered to the GCGCD media policy when answering questions in an interview with a reporter of ProPublica for a story that was published in March. The GCGCD adopted a media policy in February that prohibits board members from answering questions from the media without first having his or her statements approved by the board.

In the ProPublica article, Dohmann was critical of the EPA’s aquifer exemption granted to Uranium Energy Corp. Dohmann said his comments were not a violation of the GCGCD policy because he feels they are consistent with what he has said prior to the adoption of the media policy.

“The comments that were attributed to me in that article were public information that was discussed at this board and anyone from the public would have heard them,” Dohmann said.

The GCGCD also decided to shut down its facebook page during the April 1 meeting.

“Are we going to attract some negative special interests?” Dohmann asked about facebook.

“I don’t want (any) part of facebook, any way,” board member John Dreier said.

“I don’t even know what facebook is or don’t want (any) part of it,” board member John Duke said.

Also during the April 1 meeting, the board unanimously approved two drilling and operating permits for for DCP Midstream.
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