Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Williamstown water found in violation

But state says danger small

By Chris Mayhew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WILLIAMSTOWN - Thousands of Grant County residents have received a letter telling them their water tests high for disinfection byproducts that are potentially cancer causing.

It has not been uncommon this year for Kentuckians to receive such a notice-of-violation letter from their local water district warning of potential carcinogens in the water, a representative of the Kentucky Division of Water said.

Trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids5, both chlorination byproducts, were found at elevated levels in water processed by the Williamstown Water Treatment Plant.

The letter, on city of Williamstown letterhead, said water customers might be at an increased risk for cancer and for liver, kidney and central nervous system problems because of the elevated levels.

The March 14letter was a public "Notice of Violation," required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mayor Glenn Caldwell did not return calls requesting comment Monday.

Maleva Chamberlain, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Division of Water, said people would have to drink 2 liters of water every day over a span of almost 70 years before there would be any adverse consequences.

"It's not that they (water customers) shouldn't be bothered, but they shouldn't be overly concerned," she said.

Chamberlain said the chlorination process is meant to kill harmful bacteria and pathogens, which could cause immediate infections or illnesses. "The other contaminants are concerns, but they are more long-term concerns," Chamberlain said.

Water treatment operations are required to add a certain amount of chlorine, and all too often the trihalomethanes form when the proper amount is not added, said Brian Bergamaschi, a research chemist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Sacramento, Calif.

"Drinking water agencies are caught between a rock and a hard place," Bergamaschi said.

"They have to meet the standard amounts of chlorination or face having an overabundance of bacteria and other pathogens."

Bergamaschi said trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids both form as byproducts of chlorination, when the chlorine reacts with the natural occurring biology in the water.

This is the first year of federally required testing for these possible carcinogens.

E-mail cmayhew@enquirer.com

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