Water Quality in the News
The following information was recently gathered from a Drinking Water industry journal called Water Technology. The stories from around our nation point out that municipal tap water utilities are facing many challenges in providing pure drinking water, but of course, they are doing a great job of delivering water for all other household uses such as dish washing, toilet flushing, and laundry.
Highlighted Headlines (stories follow below)
COLUMBIA, MO, May 2, 2008 (Water Tech) — MO city has first violation in three decades
SAN FRANCISCO, May 2, 2008 (Water Tech) — AZ small system agrees to pay federal fine
BUCKS COUNTY, PA, May 2, 2008 (Water Tech) — High TCE levels prompt public system connection
WASHINGTON, May 6, 2008 (Water Tech) — ‘Distinct possibility’ of no nat’l perchlorate limit
TORRANCE COUNTY, NM, May 7, 2008 (Water Tech) — NM small system tries to find high-nitrate source
NEW YORK, May 9, 2008 (Water Tech) — Water suppliers, oil cos. settle in big MTBE case
TRENTON, ONTARIO, May 9, 2008 (Water Tech) — High lead levels prompt POU device recommendation
LOS ANGELES, May 15, 2008 (Water Tech) — L.A. mayor considers $1B ‘toilet-to-tap’ plan
SAN FRANCISCO, May 20, 2008 (Water Tech) — EPA, Justice order fine in Arizona TCE case
MO city has first violation in three decades
COLUMBIA, MO, May 2, 2008 (Water Tech) — Columbia Water & Light announced on May 2 that this city’s publicly supplied water in 2007 exceeded the federal maximum contaminant level for total trihalomethanes (TTHM), a disinfection byproduct.
According to the announcement, the city’s average reported concentration for 2007 is 0.0823 milligrams per liter (mg/L). The federal maximum contaminant level for total TTHM is 0.080 mg/L.
The violation is the city’s first in more than three decades, according to a May 2 Columbia Missourian report.
Connie Kacprowicz, a spokeswoman for the city water utility, said in the report that the city learned of the problem at the end of 2007. After contacting the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the city slightly lowered the level of chlorine used for disinfection to correct the problem.
The most recent sample, taken in February, found the level of trihalomethanes below the federal standard, at 0.077 mg/L, Kacprowicz said in the report.
AZ small system agrees to pay federal fine
SAN FRANCISCO, May 2, 2008 (Water Tech) — The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 9 announced on April 30 that the American Realty & Mortgage Co., located near Maricopa, AZ, has agreed to pay a $1,000 fine to resolve alleged drinking water violations.
Until August 2007, American Realty & Mortgage Co. supplied drinking water to approximately 50 residents of the Hacienda Acres subdivision in Pinal County, AZ.
According to the EPA, “The company failed to monitor its drinking water for lead, copper and nitrates, and failed to notify customers of its violations of safe drinking water requirements, a Safe Drinking Water Act mandate. In August 2007, American Realty & Mortgage Co. ceased operating the water system and it was turned over to a court-appointed interim operator.”
High TCE levels prompt public system connection
BUCKS COUNTY, PA, May 2, 2008 (Water Tech) — A permanent connection to a public water system is closer for some Perkasie homeowners whose community well water is contaminated by high levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), according to a May 5 phillyBurbs.com article.
The well water, which serves the development, has been contaminated with TCE since the 1970s. Levels of TCE have reached 140 parts per billion (ppb). The most recent test showed TCE levels at 17 ppb. The federal maximum contaminant level for TCE is 5 ppb.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with state and county agencies, are performing additional tests this month. Results are due back in June, the article said.
For now, homeowners rely on water that is passed through a carbon filtration system or bottled for drinking.
‘Distinct possibility’ of no nat’l perchlorate limit
WASHINGTON, May 6, 2008 (Water Tech) — A top official at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the agency may not take action to limit the level of perchlorate in drinking water supplies, according to a May 6 Associated Press (AP) report.
EPA has maintained that perchlorate, an ingredient in rocket fuel and fireworks, poses developmental health risks to humans.
Benjamin Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water, told senators May 6 that there is a “distinct possibility” that the federal regulatory agency will not set a national drinking water limit for perchlorate.
Grumbles said that although the EPA deems the chemical toxic, after years of study the agency has not determined whether regulating perchlorate would meaningfully reduce that risk, the AP reported.
NM small system tries to find high-nitrate source
TORRANCE COUNTY, NM, May 7, 2008 (Water Tech) — Homestead Water Co., a small water system with about 120 customers here, is working with the New Mexico Environment Department’s Drinking Water Bureau after high nitrate levels were found in the company’s groundwater supply, according to a May 6 New Mexico Weekly Journal article.
The state agency and the water company are trying to determine the source of the nitrates. Once the source is found, the water company will be required to submit a corrective action plan to the state.
The Environment Department issued a drinking water warning to the water company’s customers. Consumers were told to avoid giving the water to infants and avoid boiling the water, which can concentrate the nitrates. It said healthy adults should exercise caution in drinking the water, the article said.
Long-term exposure to nitrates in drinking water has been associated with diuresis (the increased formation of urine by the kidneys), increased starchy deposits and hemorrhaging of the spleen. Research indicates that long-term exposure also can lead to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. Infants exposed to high levels of nitrates can suffer from methemoglobinemia, or “blue-baby syndrome,” a condition that interferes with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
Multi-Pure’s MP750 Plus RO has been certified by NSF International, under Standard 58, to reduce Nitrates.
Water suppliers, oil cos. settle in big MTBE case
NEW YORK, May 9, 2008 (Water Tech) — More than 150 water suppliers across the United States will benefit from a negotiated settlement of a lawsuit that had accused oil companies of contaminating drinking water supplies with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, news outlets reported this week.
The settlement would require the oil companies to pay a total of $423 million in cash upfront to the water suppliers, and also pay 70 percent of cleanup costs over the next 30 years, according to a May 8 article in The New York Times. Terms of the settlement have been submitted for approval by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, which had been hearing the case. The case is the result of the consolidation of many MTBE lawsuits into a single case, the Times said.
In its May 9 edition, Newsday reported that the single largest beneficiary of the settlement would be the Suffolk County Water Authority, which serves a large suburban area east of New York City on Long Island. That authority would be awarded $104.3 million and would receive $73.4 million after deducting attorney fees, Newsday said. MTBE was detected in 450 of the authority’s 600 wells, the story said.
Among other major settlement beneficiaries would be the California Water Service Co. of San Jose, CA, to be awarded $49.7 million, according to a May 9 San Francisco Chronicle article. The article said California Water Service found MTBE in 27 of its wells and has 786 wells that could be exposed to it.
The 153 plaintiffs — providers of public water including municipalities, water agencies and private water companies — were represented by the Dallas, TX, law firm of Baron and Budd, P.C. In a May 8 press statement, Baron and Budd said about 70 percent of the nation’s oil refiners agreed to what the law firm called the “landmark settlement” that “marks a significant step toward protecting the long-term viability of drinking water resources across the United States.”
Oil companies agreeing to the settlement include BP Amoco, Atlantic Richfield, Chevron, CononcoPhillips, Shell, Marathon, Valero, CITGO, Sunoco, Hess, Flint Hills, El Paso Merchant Energy, and Tesoro, according to the plaintiffs’aw firm. Despite their agreement to the new settlement, those defendants will continue to argue that MTBE has not been proven to be a human health risk, and that the federal government had compelled them to use MTBE since the 1980s as an additive to increase fuel efficiency, news reports said. Under a legal cloud, oil companies stopped adding MTBE to gasoline in 2007.
Other oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, have not agreed to the latest settlement, and it’s expected that trials involving those defendants will start in September, Baron and Budd said in its statement.
The Times quoted an attorney representing Chevron and Shell as saying, “No court has ruled that gasoline with MTBE is a defective product. This settlement does not concede the point. Quite the contrary, the settling companies are prepared to vigorously defend the product.”
Twice in recent years, Congress considered legislation that would have shielded the oil companies from MTBE lawsuits, but the legislation never was approved.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not list MTBE as a primary or secondary drinking water contaminant, although it is now under consideration as a candidate contaminant in a review process that started recently. When present in an amount as little as 5 parts per million, it can add a foul turpentine-like taste or odor to water, and it has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals exposed to high doses. EPA considers it to be a potential human carcinogen, but has not drawn any conclusions about its health risks.
High lead levels prompt POU device recommendation
TRENTON, ONTARIO, May 9, 2008 (Water Tech) — Point-of-use water treatment devices were recommended to a dozen homeowners here who recently were informed by the city that that their tap water contains elevated levels of lead, according to a May 9 article in The Intelligencer.
Mandatory testing, ordered by the provincial Ministry of Environment in 2007, has revealed that 11 homes have tested positive for elevated levels of lead in tap water. One sample of residential tap water showed a lead level of 88 micrograms per liter (µg/l), or 88 parts per billion (ppb). The acceptable standard in Canada is 10 µg/l (10 ppb), the article said.
The city sent letters to the homeowners, explaining the potential health effects associated with drinking water containing high levels of lead, and referring the homeowners to the local health unit for information on POU devices designed to remove lead.
Mandatory testing began in 2007. During this recent round, 143 homes known to be served by lead pipes were tested. A second round of testing will be completed in August, the article said.
L.A. mayor considers $1B ‘toilet-to-tap’ plan
LOS ANGELES, May 15, 2008 (Water Tech) — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Department of Water and Power are expected to announce on May 15 a revised water use and management plan for this city that includes using recycled wastewater to recharge drinking water aquifers, according to a May 15 Los Angeles Times article.
The new plan allocates about $1 billion for the proposed reclamation system, also known as “toilet-to-tap” or “sewer-to-spigot.” The city would recycle about 4.9 billion gallons of treated wastewater to drinking standards by 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported on May 15.
Villaraigosa, who less than a decade ago opposed such a plan, now is considering using the highly treated wastewater to recharge underground drinking supplies serving the San Fernando Valley, Los Feliz and the Eastside, The Times said.
The long-term proposal is expected to carry a $2 billion total price tag, and impose water-use restrictions on Angelenos. Ratepayers also would be encouraged to upgrade their appliances to those that are water-saving. The Times reported that financial incentives and building code changes would be used to incorporate high-tech conservation equipment in homes and businesses.
The proposed plan has been devised to help the city meet its increasing water demand, which is expected to grow by 15 percent within the next 22 years.
EPA, Justice order fine in Arizona TCE case
SAN FRANCISCO, May 20, 2008 (Water Tech) — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Justice announced in a May 19 press release that three companies — Motorola, Siemens, and GlaxoSmithKline — were ordered to collectively pay a $500,000 civil penalty for system failures that led to the release of trichloroethylene (TCE) into the public drinking water system in Scottsdale, AZ.
The settlement resolves violations of the North Indian Bend Wash consent decree, filed in 2003, which occurred when TCE above contamination limits was released from the Miller Road Treatment Facility on two separate occasions, in October 2007 and January 2008.
Though the Miller Road Treatment Facility is owned and operated by the Arizona American Water Co., under the terms of the consent decree, Motorola, Inc., Siemens and GlaxoSmithKline are responsible for the remedy, which requires pumping and treating contaminated groundwater so that TCE does not exceed an acceptable limit of 5 parts per billion, the press release said.
The EPA and the Justice Department ordered the penalties called for under the Superfund law for each groundwater violation. Penalties also were imposed for inaccurate reporting of the incidents to the regulator.
“These three companies failed to properly treat groundwater for TCE at the site and further failed to alert proper authorities about the release despite being under an agreement to do both,” Ronald J. Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in the press release. The complaint and stipulation and order were filed May 19 in US District Court in Phoenix.
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