Article Archive and Links
Some of the files below are .pdf files that require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view or print. Click here to download the Reader. Once downloaded, double-click on the file to install the Reader. You can then download, view, and print any .pdf file, which appears the same on all types of computers.
Chloramine in the San Francisco Bay Area
It is time to test chloramine
September 28, 2007
Editorial, Mountain View Voice

Anna Eshoo takes up chloramine question
August 29, 2007
Daniel DeBolt, The Almanac

Locals take chloramine fight to EPA
August 24, 2007
Daniel DeBolt, Mountain View Voice

Chloramine study bill stalls in committee again
July 4, 2007
Megan Ma, Los Altos Town Crier

Ruskin wants chloramine study
Redwood City assemblyman introduced similar state bill last year
March 9, 2007
Shaun Bishop, San Mateo Daily News, Redwood City Daily News, Burlingame Daily News

LAH water district monitors lead increases in water. February 28, 2007
Eliza Ridgeway, Los Altos Town Crier

About Lead Levels in Your Drinking Water (pamphlet). February 2007
Purissima Hills Water District (Los Altos Hills, CA)

Professor: Water additive must be studied further. February 27, 2007
Aaron Kinney, San Mateo County Times

More chloramine problems reported. February 23, 2007
Daniel DeBolt, Mountain View Voice

Assembly bill to order water disinfectant study. February 14, 2007
Megan Ma, Los Altos Town Crier

Local legislator seeks study on chloramine. February 9, 2007
Daniel DeBolt, Mountain View Voice

Chloramine opponents seek state ban on water additive. February 7, 2007
Stephen Baxter, The Sunnyvale Sun

Local group continues fight against chloramine in water. December 27, 2006
Renee Batti, The Almanac (Menlo Park, CA)

Residents voice chloramine concerns. August 16, 2006
Jason Goldman-Hall, Cupertino Courier

Water-main breaks proving deadly to fish. July 15, 2006
Patrick Hoge, San Francisco Chronicle

Water wars. Local group gains traction in fight against chloramine. July 14, 2006
Daniel DeBolt, Mountain View Voice

How's the water? May 17, 2006
Renee Batti, The Almanac (Menlo Park, CA)

Water additive causes rise in plumbing problems, May 17, 2006
Renee Batti, The Almanac

BAWSCA confirms no studies done, April 5, 2006
Citizens Concerned About Chloramine CCAC, Pacifica Tribune

Assemblyman is concerned about effects of chloramine, March 29, 2006
Jason Goldman-Hall, The Sunnyvale Sun

Ruskin's bill step in right direction, March 15, 2006
San Mateo County Times, Opinion

Drinking water study proposed, March 8, 2006
Christine Morente, San Mateo County Times

Water board lends support, October 20, 2005
David Smith, Daily News

Examining Our H2O, Making great water better?, October 9, 2005
Open Forum printed in the San Francisco Chronicle
Denise Johnson-Kula, President of Citizens Concerned About Chloramine (CCAC)

SFPUC says chloramine additive in water safe, August 31, 2005
Jason Goldman-Hall, The Sunnyvale Sun

Just how safe is our drinking water?, July 27, 2005
Violet Gotelli, Director, North Coast County Water District, Guest Column, Pacifica Tribune

Tap water 'even snubbed by dogs', July 27, 2005
BBC News

Wandering & Wondering, August 3, 2005
John Maybury, Pacifica Tribune

California Conference of Local Health Officers (CCLHO) Letter regarding the efficacy and safety of monochloramine used for residual disinfection of the public water supply, March 8, 2005 (paired with Open Forum Opinion by Denise Johnson-Kula, October 9, 2005)
California Conference of Local Health Officers

Chloramine concerns continue, January 20, 2005
Ethan Fletcher, San Francisco Examiner

Supes question effects of chloramine, December 3, 2004
Justin Nyberg, San Francisco Examiner

3 women say they're victims of chloramine, September 7, 2004
Bil Paul, Palo Alto Daily News

Woman's illnesses return, June 11, 2004
Tami Min, Palo Alto Daily News

Water war's first volley, June 1, 2004
Clay Lambert, The Examiner

Residents given no say in use of water additive, April 25, 2004
Barbara LaRaia, Daily News

Chloramine in Vermont
CWD Report Ignores Health Problems. July 12, 2007
Annette Smith, The Other Paper

My Turn: Concern about chloramine must be taken seriously. April 29, 2007
Annette Smith, Burlington Free Press

Senate Checks Out Health Impact of New Water Additive CHLORAMINES (03.28.07). March 28, 2007
Ken Picard, Seven Days, Vermont's Alternative Webweekly

Residents fight for safe drinking water. March 22, 2007
Justin Dragos, Vermont Guardian

Complaints Surface About New Water Disinfection Method CHAMPLAIN WATER DISTRICT (08.02.06). August 2, 2006
Ken Picard, Seven Days, Vermont's Alternative Webweekly

Can safe drinking water be harmful? April 28, 2006
Ellen Powell, Vermont Guardian
Chloramine in Other States
Water company delays use of new chemical. August 10, 2007
The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, PA

Increasingly-Popular Water Disinfectant Raises Concerns. July 2007
Craig Idlebrook, The Working Waterfront Web Edition, Maine
Chloramine in Washington, D.C. (Lead in Drinking Water)
Lead on tap. An alarming return of lead in drinking water is being ignored by the EPA and municipal officials. November 27, 2006
Rebecca Renner, Salon.com

Get the lead out. How to make sure that your drinking water is safe. November 27, 2006
Rebecca Renner, Salon.com

Mis-lead. Water utility managers and public-health officials may be getting the wrong message about what happened during Washington, D.C.'s drinking-water crisis. May 31, 2006
Rebecca Renner, Environmental Science & Technology, Science News

Imminent Endangerment: "Lead" Astray by the EPA. Princeton University Lecture Series, May 4, 2006
Marc Edwards, Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Experiment confirms chloramine's effect on lead in drinking water. The water chemistry that caused Washington, D.C.'s lead problem isn't unique. April 12, 2006
Rebecca Renner, Environmental Science & Technology, Science News

The Water Guy. First, Marc Edwards discovered high levels of lead in Washington, D.C.'s, drinking water, then he had to persuade the bureaucracy to get the word out. November 2004
Pierre Home-Douglas, Prism, American Society for Engineering Education

Several U.S. Utilities Being Investigated for Lead, October 14, 2004
Water Agencies Have Hidden or Misrepresented Test Results, Records Show
Carol D. Leonnig and David Nakamura, Washington Post Staff Writers

Lead in D.C. Water Slashed, Decline Comes After WASA Resumes Using Chlorine as Disinfectant, May 21, 2004
D'Vera Cohn, Washington Post Staff Writer

EPA rules cited in lead flap, April 13, 2004
Sean Salai, The Washington Times
Chloramine in Maui (Lead in Drinking Water)
Maui group urges county to stop adding chemical to water, May 8, 2004
Gary T. Kubota, Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Chloramine in North Carolina (Lead in Drinking Water)
Chloramines again linked to lead in drinking water, June 29, 2005
Rebecca Renner, Environmental Science & Technology, Science News
Chloramine and Asthma
Swimming pool chlorine, asthma link, April 5, 2004
Health24 News

Athletics Dept. closes off pool, October 31, 2006
Rebecca Yergin, Yale Daily News




Chloramine in the
San Francisco Bay Area


Mountain View Voice
September 28, 2007

It is time to test chloramine
Editorial

Amid the recent turmoil over dangerous chemicals in our food and toys, it's amazing to observe the federal government's somewhat lackadaisical reaction to concerns over chloramine, the chemical additive used to treat our tap water.

Perhaps because only a small minority — a few hundred among the Bay Area's millions — have reported serious reactions, earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency all but shrugged off pleas for more testing, despite valid reports of horrible allergic reactions to the additive.

Chloramine came into our pristine Hetch Hetchy water supply in 2004 when the EPA decided that chlorine, the disinfectant that had protected municipal water for many years, wasn't good enough any more. The agency called on water districts to ramp up disinfection efforts, and many districts found chloramine, a chemical combination of chlorine and ammonia, to be cheap and effective at killing bacteria without producing certain harmful byproducts.

The San Francisco Public Utility Commission ordered the switch three years ago, and that's when people along the water district's service line, including in Mountain View, began showing symptoms such as skin rashes, painful digestive tract inflammation, and asthma-like respiratory problems.

Eventually these residents formed an organization, Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, which is seeking to convince the SFPUC and EPA to test chloramine to make sure it is safe.

Actions by this group have brought about two revelations which we find alarming:
  1. Apparently, the EPA recommended chloramine without fully testing its potential impact on the population.
  2. After Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, requested that the EPA meet with local residents on Sept. 5, the agency claimed it cannot take any action until health concerns are reported by the Centers for Disease Control or the medical community.
Bruce Macler of the EPA's San Francisco office told the Voice last week: "As far as we know there is no evidence there is a problem with public health. When we talk about what's safe, we talk about generally safe. It is possible people are affected. Medical folks have to start saying this is an issue."

This may happen in Vermont, where enough residents reported problems to cause the state legislature there to hold two days of hearings and to prompt the CDC to take a closer look. Back in the Bay Area, the citizens group has identified about 400 people who report allergic reactions when exposed to chloramine.

Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that the byproducts of chloramine are much more toxic than those of chlorine. Dr. Michael Plewa, a professor of genetics at the University of Illinois who coauthored a study of tap water disinfection byproducts, told the Voice that byproducts from chloramine are the most toxic he has ever seen. He recommends a switch back to chlorine.

At the very least, the EPA and SFPUC should be bending over backwards to look into claims of adverse reactions, and our elected officials should push to make sure that happens. More testing should begin immediately to sort out just how toxic this substance is.

What if those affected are just the canaries in the coal mine? Those of us not affected today could still show symptoms in the future.

Without question, a full range of tests should have been conducted before chloramine was put into our drinking water. It is unconscionable that the government agencies charged with protecting public health are instead putting up roadblocks in what appears to be a legitimate concern.



The Almanac
August 29, 2007

Anna Eshoo takes up chloramine question
• Menlo Park-based group's three-year effort challenging water additive gains force; meeting with EPA ahead.
Daniel DeBolt

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has arranged a meeting in early September between local opponents of the water additive chloramine and the federal Environmental Protection Agency — a major victory for the Menlo Park-based group representing hundreds of Bay Area residents who say they've suffered from skin, respiratory and intestinal ailments since the substance was added to the water in 2004.

"Constituents have raised their serious concerns about chloramine," said Rep. Eshoo, D-Menlo Park. "I think it's important for the EPA and the Public Utility Commission to hear directly from them and I am facilitating this. The use of chloramine as a disinfectant in public water should be guided by sound science showing that it is both safe and effective."

Chloramine replaced chlorine as the disinfectant for Hetch Hetchy tap water in February 2004. The switch had been recommended by the EPA to reduce the carcinogenic byproducts of chlorine.

Since then, however, more than 400 Bay Area residents have reported suffering effects from the chloramine that mimic allergic reactions, including skin rashes, respiratory problems and inflamed digestive tracts, according to the Menlo Park-based Citizens Concerned About Chloramine.

That group's president, Denise Johnson-Kula, said the goal of the meeting, scheduled for Sept. 5 in San Francisco, is to start a discussion with the EPA about providing a "waiver" to local water agencies allowing them to go back to chlorine use — despite whatever effects that may have on byproducts in the tap water.

On the Peninsula, this could put responsibility for the problem back into the hands of the local water provider, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which has said its switch to chloramine – a combination of chlorine and ammonia – was prompted by EPA recommendations.

The group has joined forces with others from as far away as Vermont to build a national movement to stem the disinfectant's use until studies can be done on its health effects. The renewed effort came after a California bill to study chloraminated tap water, authored by local Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, failed to pass for the second year in a row this summer.

The groups celebrated one of their first victories two weeks ago, when a handful of residents in Pennsylvania were able to delay a switch to chloramine by the Pennsylvania-based American Water Co.  Opponents said proper studies of its health effects had not been conducted.

One-third of the country has already converted to the disinfectant, said Ms. Johnson-Kula. Water agencies, meanwhile, say some places have used chloramine since the early 1900s with no problems.

The EPA recommended that water agencies switch to chloramine to reduce trihalomethanes, a carcinogenic byproduct of chlorine disinfection. But the byproducts of chloramine are even more dangerous, according to Dr. Michael Plewa, professor of genetics at the University of Illinois, who recently published a study on tap water disinfection byproducts.

In an e-mail to the Mountain View Voice (the Almanac's sister paper), Mr. Plewa stated that the byproducts of chloramine are "much more toxic" than chlorine's — and that these byproducts are found in California water supplies. He recommends that water agencies switch back to chlorine.

Whether chloramine itself can be linked to people's health problems has yet to be studied. Dr. David Ozonoff, a professor of public health at Boston University, says that question is definitely worth looking into.

"A close temporal relationship between the treatment change and the complaints of water users strongly suggests that one is the cause of the other," he wrote in a letter to Vermont-based People Concerned About Chloramine.

"Without a more detailed study of the matter it is not possible to say this definitively, but it is plausible that something about the treatment change has caused this. Water chemistry is complicated and sometimes produces unexpected and untoward results. The complaints are notice to look into the matter."

Such chemistry may have affected water supplies in Los Altos, where lead content is regularly tested. Following the introduction of chloramine, water in several homes was found to contain lead levels over the public safety limit, possibly due to the way chloraminated tap water reacts with the lead-soldered plumbing in older homes.

Greg Hosfeldt, business manager of the Mountain View Public Works Department, said 24 random water samples were taken from Mountain View homes and wells after the switch to chloramine in 2004. Lead levels were not found to be over the maximum level, he said. The city is slated to test its water again in September.

More information can be found at www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn.

Daniel DeBolt writes for the Mountain View Voice, the Almanac's sister paper.



Mountain View Voice
August 24, 2007

Locals take chloramine fight to EPA
Daniel DeBolt

In an effort to help dozens of Peninsula residents, including 30 from Mountain View, who say their sensitivity to chloramine has caused skin rashes and respiratory problems, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo is pulling strings to allow them to speak with the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Constituents have raised their serious concerns about chloramine," said Eshoo, D-Palo Alto. "I think it's important for the EPA and the Public Utility Commission to hear directly from them and I am facilitating this. The use of chloramine as a disinfectant in public water should be guided by sound science showing that it is both safe and effective."

Chloramine replaced chlorine as the disinfectant for Hetch Hetchy tap water in 2004. The switch had been recommended by the EPA to reduce the carcinogenic byproducts of chlorine.

Since then, however, more than 400 Bay Area residents have reported allergic reactions to chloramine, including skin rashes, respiratory problems and inflamed digestive tracts, according to the Menlo Park-based Citizens Concerned About Chloramine.

That group's president, Denise Johnson-Kula, said the goal of the meeting, scheduled for Aug. 27, is to start a discussion with the EPA about providing a "waiver" to local water agencies allowing them to go back to chlorine use — despite whatever effects that may have on byproducts in the tap water.

On the Peninsula, this could put responsibility for the problem back into the hands of the local water provider, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which has said its switch to chloramine was prompted by EPA recommendations.

The group has joined forces with others from as far away as Vermont to build a national movement to stem the disinfectant's use until studies can be done on its health effects. The renewed effort came after a California bill to study chloraminated tap water, authored by Assemblymember Ira Ruskin, failed for the second year in a row this summer.

The groups celebrated one of their first victories two weeks ago, when a handful of residents in Pennsylvania were able to delay a switch to chloramine by the Pennsylvania-based American Water Company. Opponents said proper studies of its health effects had not been conducted.

One-third of the country has already converted to the disinfectant, said Kula. Water agencies, meanwhile, say some places have used chloramine since the early 1900s with no problems.

The EPA recommended that water agencies switch to chloramine to reduce trihalomethanes, a carcinogenic byproduct of chlorine disinfection. But the byproducts of chloramine are even more dangerous, according to Dr. Michael Plewa, professor of genetics at the University of Illinois, who recently published a study on tap water disinfection byproducts.

In an e-mail to the Voice, Plewa stated that the byproducts of chloramine are "much more toxic" than chlorine's — and that these byproducts are found in California water supplies. He recommends that water agencies switch back to chlorine.

Whether chloramine itself can be linked to people's health problems has yet to be studied. David Ozonoff, MD, a professor of public health at Boston University, says that question is definitely worth looking into.

"A close temporal relationship between the treatment change and the complaints of water users strongly suggests that one is the cause of the other," he wrote in a letter to Vermont-based People Concerned About Chloramine.

"Without a more detailed study of the matter it is not possible to say this definitively, but it is plausible that something about the treatment change has caused this. Water chemistry is complicated and sometimes produces unexpected and untoward results. The complaints are notice to look into the matter."

Such chemistry may have affected water supplies in Los Altos, where lead content is regularly tested. Following the introduction of chloramine, water in several homes was found to contain lead levels over the public safety limit, possibly due to the way chloraminated tap water reacts with the lead-soldered plumbing in older homes.

Greg Hosfeldt, business manager of the Mountain View Public Works Department, said 24 random water samples were taken from Mountain View homes and wells after the switch to chloramine in 2004. Lead levels were not found to be over the maximum level, he said. The city is slated to test its water again in September.

More information can be found at www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn.



Los Altos Town Crier
July 4, 2007

Chloramine study bill stalls in committee again
Megan Ma

Assemblyman Ira Ruskin's AB559, a bill calling for health studies on the disinfectant chloramine, stalled in committee hearings for the second consecutive session. AB2402, which Ruskin (D-Redwood City) introduced in the last session, stalled in the Appropriations Committee because of its cost.

Local residents, concerned about the negative effects of chloramine in the water, pushed for a waiver from health officials to stop the use of the water disinfectant. Residents from eight Bay Area cities were scheduled to meet with U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo in Palo Alto July 3 to lobby for a temporary reprieve from the use of chloramine, a mixture of ammonia and chlorine, until the health studies are completed.

AB559 would have requested the UC Center for Water Resources to conduct a study on the health effects of chloramine on humans and report the results no later than July 2009.

Ruskin's assistant Nate Pinkston said the assemblyman was "disappointed" that the bill stalled and plans to propose a similar bill in early 2008.

A growing number of water companies nationwide have replaced the disinfectant chlorine with chloramine in response to more stringent water standards by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Tests have verified health safety for chlorine and ammonia separately, but not for chloramine itself.

For those who link chloramine in the water to their health problems, these studies can't come soon enough. Some, like Los Altos Hills resident Joe Yang, who attribute their health problems to the community water, have switched off tap water completely.

Los Altos resident Barbara Kyser doesn't suffer from current symptoms, but she said she is concerned about the possibility of long-term health effects stemming from chloramine. These days, she said, she drinks only bottled water and has persuaded her grown children to avoid tap water altogether.

"When I look at this, I think it's ridiculous that we switched from chlorine to chloramine - something that hasn't been studied on humans," Kyser said.

Los Altos Hills residents are among the 2.4 million Bay Area residents who use Hetch Hetchy water dosed with chloramine in 2004. Los Altos' water has contained chloramine since 1983, but the provider, Santa Clara Valley Water District, significantly raised the chemical's levels in July 2004. Officials at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have maintained that chloramine at the current dosage is safe for humans and animals.

Michael Plewa, professor of genetics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has not conducted health studies on chloramine, but he has studied the disinfectant closely for years through the eyes of a biologist.

He has published peer-reviewed studies with colleagues on the unintended consequence of disinfecting water. Toxic chemicals, known as disinfection byproducts, Plewa found, are produced when chloramine mixes with leaves and other natural matter in the water. These harmful compounds can linger in the water supply. Moreover, byproducts from chloramine are significantly more dangerous than those produced by chlorine, according to these studies.

"The greatest health advance of the 20th century was the disinfection of water . now it's the disinfecting system itself that is generating harmful material," Plewa said.

It is the responsibility of federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the public from health dangers, but there is little research money set aside for that, Plewa added. Chloramine can also increase lead levels in water, he said.

For more information on AB559, visit www.iraruskin.org. To learn more about chloramine, visit www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn or sfwater.org.



San Mateo Daily News
Redwood City Daily News
Burlingame Daily News
March 9, 2007

Ruskin wants chloramine study
Redwood City assemblyman introduced similar state bill last year
Shaun Bishop

An additive to the Peninsula's tap water has caught the attention of a state assemblyman who is now working to finalize legislation aimed at studying the health effects of the chemical.

Chloramine, a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, has been used in low levels since February 2004 as a disinfectant for the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which provides water to most of the Peninsula's residents.

But a group calling itself Citizens Concerned About Chloramine says the compound comes with adverse health effects, including rashes and respiratory problems, that have not been adequately studied.

Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, has taken up the issue and has introduced a bill to initiate a study exploring the effect of chloramine on public health.

"It's important to understand, if even a small number of people are adversely affected," Ruskin said. "It's a concern to me that we've never had a comprehensive study of the effects of chloramine."

The language of the bill as it was introduced in late February is identical to one Ruskin floated last year only to have it die in committee. Now, Ruskin's office is talking to scientists and experts about the specifics of what such a study should focus on.

Ruskin plans to amend the bill with those specifics after March 24, once it is past a 30-day waiting period during which no changes can be made.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which operates the Hetch Hetchy system, used chlorine to disinfect its water prior to 2004, but decided to switch to chloramine after the federal Environmental Protection Agency warned that chlorine produces byproducts that are potential carcinogens.

Given those two choices, the commission felt chloramine was a safer alternative, said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for the commission. He said officials have heard the concerns from residents about ill health effects, but have followed the advice of public health agencies that insist the chemical is safe.

"All of the scientific evidence that's available, all the studies that have been done ... don't link those effects to chloramine," Winnicker said.

The chloramine citizens group disagrees, claiming at least 400 people from San Francisco to Sunnyvale have been sickened by the chemical. The group's president, Denise Johnson-Kula, said she collapsed in the shower after having trouble breathing shortly after the additive was introduced to the water supply. She also complained of cracked skin and digestive problems.

"It was a nightmare for the people affected," Johnson-Kula said. "It is not safe. We are living proof of that."

The next meeting of the Citizens Concerned About Chloramine is scheduled for March 14 at 7 p.m. at the Heritage Bank of Commerce, 369 South San Antonio Road, Los Altos.


E-mail Shaun Bishop at .



Los Altos Town Crier
February 28, 2007

LAH water district monitors lead increases in water
Eliza Ridgeway

Residents of Los Altos Hills served by the Purissima Hills Water District received a pamphlet in the mail recently advising them of elevated lead levels in some drinking water. The district found lead levels about 4 parts per billion higher than the maximum of 15 parts per billion allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The district tests water in people's homes every three years to see if lead is leaching into water from homes whose fixtures and piping may contain lead and lead solder.

"The EPA outlawed use of lead solder in 1986, so it hasn't been used on any house constructed since then," said water district director Daniel Seidel. "But there are still a lot of houses built before then. There is the potential, especially with hot water, that some lead could leach out of the solder joints."

The district's mail notification, required by the California Department of Health Services, described the potential harm from high lead levels and offered some steps residents can take to reduce excess lead exposure from drinking water.

Drinking and cooking with water from the cold tap reduces the risk of exposure to lead, as does letting the tap run for several minutes to flush sitting water through the plumbing.

A follow-up letter from the district stated that the test that triggered the lead warning was "not a controlled laboratory test" because it relied on residents to gather the water themselves, and therefore might not accurately represent the actual level of risk in the homes' water.

Seidel said that a second round of testing was scheduled to confirm or discount the initial indication of elevated lead levels in some residential water.

Concerned residents can contact the water district for a list of the laboratories that will test the water.

"The brochure is very alarming; it goes into a lot of things that sound pretty scary," Seidel said. "But fact of the matter is that this is the first time we've had positive (lead levels) in years. I have every confidence that this problem is localized to some fluke regarding these individual homes."

In addition to lead solder, some plumbing fixtures can contain problematic levels of lead. But Seidel emphasized that residents should have their water tested before they worry about removing plumbing.

The district's water is purchased from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and originates primarily at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada. The commission tests and disinfects the water before distributing it to more than 2.4 million customers, including about two-thirds of Los Altos Hills residents. Another distributor, Cal Water, supplies water to the rest of the town.

The increase in lead levels in this round of testing may be due to a new form of disinfectant used in the area's water supply, chloramine, which has been linked to increased lead leaching. In 2004, the Public Utilities Commission replaced chlorine disinfectants with chloramine, a chlorine-and-ammonia product, after chlorine byproducts proved carcinogenic in rats. Other municipalities have experienced spikes in lead levels in drinking water after adding chloramines to the water supply.

Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents may have noticed an increase of tiny bubbles in the tap water, creating a cloudy or milky-white appearance, a benign side effect of air getting into the pipelines during recent maintenance work, according to the Purissima Hills Water District pamphlet.



Purissima Hills Water District (Los Altos Hills, CA)
February 2007

About Lead Levels in Your Drinking Water (pamphlet).


San Mateo County Times
February 27, 2007

Professor: Water additive must be studied further
Aaron Kinney

FOSTER CITY — At first, Virginia Tech civil engineering professor Marc Edwards didn't believe the claims that residents of Maui in Hawaii were making about their water supply.

But when he went there to investigate in 2004 he decided they were right: chloramine, a chemical disinfectant that had been added to their water, appeared to be a factor in the skin rashes and other ailments from which some people were suffering.

"At first, I thought they were crazy, but in retrospect, they were right on," said Edwards, who has conducted EPA-funded tests on chloramine. "Seeing how accurate these folks' concerns turned out to be, I'm not one to dismiss (them) out-of-hand."

A group of local residents hope that state-funded studies will vindicate their belief that chloramine, which is used to cleanse the water of the Hetch Hetchy system, can cause painful reactions in some people who drink, bathe or even wash their clothes in the water.

"Our primary concern is the people who cannot use their water without becoming extremely ill," said Denise Johnson-Kalu, president of Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, which holds an informational meeting tonight in Foster City.

For a second year, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, has authored a bill to study the effects of chloramine on human health. While last year's unsuccessful bill would have focused on byproducts of the disinfectant, this year's version is intended to focus exclusively on chloramine, a combination of chlorine and ammonia.

Ruskin said he has heard numerous complaints since chloramine was added to the Hetch Hetchy system in 2004, replacing chlorine, which the EPA decided was linked to high amounts of many carcinogenic byproducts known as trihalomethanes.

"This is something that I think we owe it to our population to understand," said Ruskin. "It just surprised me to find that there were no national or state studies done on chloramine — there were just assumptions that it was effective and safe."

Edwards said the study of the Upper Kula water system on Maui is the only he's aware of that has looked at the health effects of chloramine. The study found that chloramine left behind ammonia residue that allowed certain bacteria to survive in the water, contributing to skin rashes.

Edwards conducted a separate study that showed chloramine caused an alarming increase in the amount of lead that leached into the water system of Washington D.C., though studies of other water systems indicated that chloramine actually reduced lead leaching.

Edwards said it is likely that chloramine interacts differently with various water systems, depending on the chemical make-up of the water. Reported problems with chloramine, while significant, "seem to be the exception and not the rule," he said.

Marilyn Raubitschek considers herself one of these exceptions. Raubitschek, 81, is a health-conscious San Mateo resident who developed severe skin reactions after chloramine was introduced in February 2004.

"And I developed these welts with scabs on them, and they itched horribly," Raubitschek said.

By monitoring and experimenting with her water consumption, Raubitschek believes chloramine was responsible for her condition. She no longer uses the shower in her home. Instead, she takes baths using distilled water.

The Hetch Hetchy water used on the Peninsula is controlled by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Spokeswoman Maureen Barry said the commission will support Ruskin's studies if they are approved.

"However, everything we have found in our studies indicates that chloramine is a very safe disinfectant," Barry said.

Tonight's coalition meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at 763 Comet Drive in Foster City.

Staff writer Aaron Kinney can be reached at (650) 348-4302 or by e-mail at .



Mountain View Voice
February 23, 2007

More chloramine problems reported
Nearly a dozen Mountain View residents now say tap water disinfectant is harmful
Daniel DeBolt

News coverage by the Voice and other local papers since last summer has caused a significant number of Mountain View residents to come forward with health problems they say are caused by the region's chloraminated tap water, according to a local group which tracks the issue.

Citizens Concerned about Chloramine says that so far 11 complaints have been reported in Mountain View alone, up from zero about eight months ago. The group says hundreds of people have reported problems - from mild to severe - on the Peninsula.

One of the new reports came from Beth Wilson, a swimmer and Mountain View resident who says she has coughing spells after breathing tap water vapors.

"Either we're the canary in the mine or we're just more sensitive," said Wilson, 46, who is also worried about increasing respiratory problems with her children. "I can't believe it affects someone as healthy as I am. It's hard for me to believe it's not affecting the general population."

A day after Wilson and her family moved to Mountain View, the long-time distance swimmer developed a hoarse voice and a very deep cough that sounded like a "seal bark" she said.

Wilson searched for a solution to her respiratory problems for three months until she read an article about chloramine and called her doctor in Boulder, Colo. The doctor guessed right away that chloramine was the problem, she said.

Wilson said anyone who doesn't believe her can watch her run the dishwasher without a door or window open. The water vapors will put her into a coughing spell, she says.

Mountain View resident Bijan Haghighi told the Voice that his wife has similar reactions while the coffee machine runs in their kitchen.

Respiratory problems and dry, bleeding skin have been reported by hundreds of Peninsula residents since 2004, when the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission replaced chlorine with chloramine - a chemical consisting of chlorine plus ammonia - to meet more stringent EPA water disinfection standards.

Wilson, who was a competitive swimmer throughout much of her life, travels to Morgan Hill regularly to shower and swim in that area's non-chloraminated water. She said she's never had a problem with straight chlorine in a pool, but once ammonia is added to make chloramine, the problems emerge.

Once in a while Wilson forgets while brushing her teeth and puts her toothbrush under running tap water. The next day, she said, she'll have a stomach ache.

Gunjan Chakravarty, a former San Jose State University physicist, told the Voice that her 8-year-old daughter has had to steer clear of chloraminated water or suffer from dry, bleeding skin. She and her husband also get red skin after bathing, she said, but the symptoms are not as bad their daughter's.

She added that the family has had the problem while living in two different residences in Mountain View.

State Assembly member Ira Ruskin, who represents several mid-Peninsula cities, plans to author a bill this year that would pay for a study on the human health effects of choraminated tap water.

"I'm concerned about the people who have relayed the difficulties they have had as a result of the water," Ruskin said two weeks ago. "My research shows there have not been sufficient studies of this."

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at



Los Altos Town Crier
February 14, 2007

Assembly bill to order water disinfectant study
Megan Ma

Local state Assemblyman Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City) said he plans to introduce a bill that would order the state to fund studies on chloramine, a widely used water disinfectant dispensed three years ago into the water supply in Los Altos Hills and surrounding cities.

No studies have been conducted to date to determine the health effects of chloramine, a combination of ammonia and chlorine. The Town Crier first reported on the issue in a cover story last August.

Hundreds of Bay Area residents have aggressively lobbied local officials to remove chloramine until further health studies are completed. Many residents have tied the onset of their allergies and other health issues to chloramine, introduced into the water supply by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) in February 2004.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has put chloramine in Los Altos water since 1983 and has received few complaints, said Ron Richardson, district manager for Cal Water Service Company, which distributes the water supply in Los Altos.

Last August, Richardson said that no scientific studies were available to verify chloramine safety. Individual tests have been performed to verify health safety on chlorine and ammonia, but not on chloramine.

For Joe Yang, 23, of Los Altos Hills, such studies have come too late. He claimed his first exposure to the treated water led to severe allergies and that the chloramine caused rashes on his body and food allergies. These days, Yang said he must stay away even from food that has been cooked in water containing chloramine.

Yang is not alone. Activists have pegged a range of sinus allergies, severe skin rashes and digestive problems on the chemical. More than 400 members of the Menlo Park-based Citizens Concerned About Chloramine (CCAC) group have petitioned local lawmakers to mandate health studies.

"This is a total grassroots fight on the part of the people. We don't have a lot of resources. We have to spend our lifeblood on this water that our government did not study properly. Those of us who have been made most sick are the ones having to fight," CCAC member Denise Johnson-Kula said.

The SFPUC, which supplies water to Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mountain View among other cities, is the last major water agency in the Bay Area to switch to chloramine. June Weintraub of the SFPUC deemed it a "safer choice" than chlorine. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pushed for the use of chloramine to replace chlorine as a disinfectant.

Ruskin's bill calls for a wide range of health studies on skin, respiratory and digestive effects. It would also empower to water officials to remove chloramines temporarily from water while it is being studied - providing a respite for those who claim to suffer.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) said that while he had not looked extensively into the chloramine issue, he was keeping an "open mind" and supported Ruskin's efforts.

CCAC members had little success garnering the attention of Simitian. Johnson-Kula called the senator's aides' reception of the group "patronizing."

For more information about chloramine, visit www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn or sfwater.org.



Mountain View Voice
February 9, 2007

Local legislator seeks study on chloramine
Mountain View woman tells of woes caused by tap water disinfectant
Daniel DeBolt

State Assembly member Ira Ruskin, whose district covers several Peninsula cities, says he plans to introduce a bill this year to address the health effects of chloramine, the disinfectant introduced into the Peninsula's tap water in 2004.

"I'm concerned about the people who have relayed the difficulties they have had as a result of the water," Ruskin said. "My research shows there have not been sufficient studies of this. I think it would be prudent to study the effects and have more scientific evidence of what the effects are."

The exact form the bill will take has not yet been decided, Ruskin said. One option is to simply reintroduce a version Ruskin authored last year that stalled in the Appropriations Committee because of its price tag. That bill, AB2402, would have funded a study of the human health effects of chloramine.

According to Citizens Concerned about Chloramine, a local group which met with Ruskin on Jan. 26, more than 300 people have reported skin and respiratory problems which they believe are due to chloramine in the tap water

Members of the group have long been pushing for a scientific study. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which provides water to Peninsula cities including Mountain View, has not conducted or even heard of a study of the human health effects of the chemical, even though the agency made the decision to use it in 2004.

Ruskin said many agencies have chosen to use chloramine, which is composed of chlorine and ammonia, in response to new regulations from the EPA that call for better water disinfection. Previously, chlorine was used by the SFPUC.

Ruskin said any move to ban chloramine outright was a long way off. "At this point I don't think that is a practical option," he said.

Mysterious health problems

A month after chloramine was introduced to the local tap water, an 82-year-old woman named Shirlee, who lives near the Monta Loma neighborhood, developed skin rashes on her legs that soon spread to the rest of her body.

For almost two years, she said, she sought help from doctors, all of whom told her she had a food allergy. It wasn't until she read an article about chloramine in the Voice last August, she said, that she decided to stop drinking, cooking and washing with the city's tap water.

"Within a week it was beginning to ease up," she said of the rashes. She said when she showed her doctors the Voice article, they didn't believe that it could be the problem — but that they were amazed when they saw the results.

Her skin is still scarred, but she hopes that will go away soon. Once in a while she forgets and drinks some of the tap water, which brings the rashes back quickly, she said.

To cope with the problem she uses bottled water, and invested $1,500 in a filtration system for cooking, dishes and bathing. But that only works when the water is cold.

Taking showers in cold water is "the pits," she added.

For 30 years, Shirlee said, tap water disinfected with chlorine was fine. "Chlorine doesn't bother me," she explained. "But the ammonia does you in. I hope they change the water back to the old way."

Shirlee allowed the Citizens Concerned about Chloramine to post before and after pictures of her legs on the group's Web site, www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn. She believes there are others who suffer from chloraminated tap water problems unknowingly.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at



The Sunnyvale Sun
February 7, 2007

Chloramine opponents seek state ban on water additive
Stephen Baxter

There's something in the water in Sunnyvale, and a group of activists is shoring up support to eliminate it.

Chloramine is a mix of chlorine and ammonia that disinfects more than 85 percent of the city's water, and some residents have blamed it for rashes and breathing problems.

On Jan. 26, a former chemist from Sunnyvale joined members of the nonprofit Citizens Concerned About Chloramine to lobby state Assemblymember Ira Ruskin for more research on the chemical and a state exemption from federal water requirements.

Ruskin, who represents 13 cities from San Carlos to San Jose, said he would refine a chloramine bill he introduced in 2006 that failed in part because of a $350,000 price tag. He chairs the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee.

"We could call for studies of the direct effect of chloramine on people, study programs in other parts of the country, or a combination," Ruskin said last week. "This is an issue that concerns me," he said.

Former chemist Robert Helwing and the chloramine group's founder, Denise Johnson-Kula, said they were hopeful a bill would be passed. Sunnyvale gets a blend of water from local wells, a Los Gatos treatment plant and from the Hetch Hetchy system managed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The Los Gatos water has included chloramine since 1984, officials said, but the Hetch Hetchy water began chloramine treatment in 2004. Hetch Hetchy water is delivered mostly to residents north of El Camino Real, said James Craig, acting assistant director of Sunnyvale public works.

Since then, the anti-chloramine group has tracked 29 Sunnyvale residents and more than 400 in the Bay Area who have had such symptoms as rashes and respiratory problems they attribute to chloramine.

The SFPUC has denied adverse effects of chloramine on people, and points to the millions who drink and bathe in the water without problems. The commission said it switched from chlorine to chloramine in 2004 in part because it lasts longer and is less expensive, and it has cited Environmental Protection Agency research that deemed the additive safe.

However, advocates say the chemical dosages measured in studies are smaller than dosages here, and Ruskin's bill would request more research. A spokesman for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which delivers the Los Gatos water to Sunnyvale, said it welcomed the research and would not make a change without it.

For Sunnyvale residents such as Ingrid and Willy Stahl, water has become an enemy in their own home. They have had itchy skin, breathing problems and mounting bills for doctors' exams and bottled water.

When the couple left town and used different water, their symptoms disappeared.

"We really should not have to purchase bottled water for the rest of our lives to drink and bathe ... personally I would like to have it checked and tested," said Ingrid Stahl, 74.

Menlo Park resident Johnson-Kula has tracked the Stahls and hundreds of others after she founded the anti-chloramine group three years ago. She has spoken to more than 50 groups from Pacifica to Sunnyvale about water and has caught the ears of state Sen. Leland Yee, Assemblyman Gene Mullin and others.

"This has been hell for my husband and me, and I sympathize with the 400 people who have symptoms," Johnson-Kula said.

More information on the Citizens Concerned About Chloramine is available at www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn. Sunnyvale officials said water quality problems can be reported to field services at 408.730.7510.



The Almanac (Menlo Park, CA)
December 27, 2006

Local group continues fight against chloramine in water
Renee Batti

It's been a year of ups and downs for the plucky members of the Menlo Park-based group that's fighting to have the disinfectant chloramine removed from the Bay Area's water.

And although the year is ending on a down note for them, anyone familiar with the group's leader, Denise Johnson-Kula of Menlo Park, will not be surprised to learn that she's nowhere close to throwing in the towel.

Her group, Concerned Citizens About Chloramine (CCAC), reached an important milestone in July in its efforts to convince key water officials that critical studies on the health effects of chloramine hadn't been done before the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) decided to add the substance to the water supply it oversees.

Chloramine — a combination of chlorine and ammonia used as a disinfectant — was added in February 2004 to the water of all customers receiving their supply from the Hetch Hetchy system, and since then, Ms. Johnson-Kula says, hundreds of people have reported reactions ranging from respiratory and intestinal distress to severe skin ailments.

At the July SFPUC meeting, group members and other Bay Area residents testified about a range of ailments — some of them severe and disabling — that they believed were caused by chloramine. And they insisted that some key studies on the health effects of chloramine have never been done, even though the disinfectant is used in numerous water supplies across the country and elsewhere in the world.

After hearing the testimony, commission President Richard Sklar directed the staff to seek out such studies — or determine if they even exist — and report back to the commission.

CCAC members were ecstatic.

But on Nov. 14, the SFPUC heard the staff's report, and unanimously agreed that chloramine should remain in the water, although staff was directed to continue monitoring all new information about the additive and its possible side effects.

Ms. Johnson-Kula was not only disappointed by the decision, she was angry, calling the entire process a "snow job."

"The purpose of the meeting was supposed to be to report on the (staff's research) of health studies done on respiratory, dermal and digestive issues, and to find out if cancer studies were ever finished," she said after the meeting.

"They spent three months looking, didn't find any, and decided to turn this into a review of chloramine concerns, where they gave us pretty much the same old rehash of information. They didn't find the studies ... and they tried to cover that up with a big presentation on why it's great anyway."

The group's position on the lack of health studies focusing on those four areas has been bolstered by at least two other public water agencies: the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, which represents the 26 cities and water districts receiving Hetch Hetchy water; and the North Coast County Water District in Pacifica. Both agencies sought studies over the past year, and both say were unable to find any.

Soon after the November meeting, Ms. Johnson-Kula dashed off a letter asking the SFPUC to schedule another hearing to specifically address the issue of whether adequate chloramine health studies have been done. She protested the one-minute time limit imposed on speakers at the Nov. 14 meeting, and asked that CCAC members and others be given more time to present information gathered over the last two years through their own research.

But it appears that hearing won't take place.

"It wouldn't be productive or a good use of anyone's time to meet again about the exact same issues and exact same thing when there's no new information on either side," said SFPUC spokesman Tony Winnicker.

The staff will follow the direction of the commission and "keep paying attention to the latest developments" related to chloramine, and will update the commission in a year, he said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Johnson-Kula says the contacts to her group from people in other states and other countries continue to grow in number as chloramine is added to more and more water supplies and people experience adverse effects. They learn about the group through its Web site, www.rouxingpingmu.cn, and in some cases establish their own activist groups against the water additive.



Cupertino Courier
August 16, 2006

Residents voice chloramine concerns
By JASON GOLDMAN-HALL

Summer months bring a wave of residents playing in sprinklers, swimming in pools and sipping tall glasses of ice water.

But for a growing number of Bay Area residents, tap water is looked at the same way allergy sufferers look at pollen. In February 2004, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission--which governs water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir that provides almost half of Sunnyvale's water--switched its systems to use chloramine instead of chlorine as a disinfectant.

After two years of the chemical being in the water, and after a year and a half of outreach and attempts to get more attention, Citizens Concerned about Chloramine founder and leader Denise Johnson-Kula said while support is growing from the community, there has still been no action taken nor studies done.

"This is too important. This is a major public health issue, and it has been under the radar for too long," Johnson-Kula said.

Chloramine, a less expensive combination of chlorine and ammonia, stays in water systems longer to provide longer disinfectant action and is believed to cut down on the amount of possibly carcinogenic trihalomethanes released when chlorine reacts with such organic matter as vegetation or animal waste in water.

But according to a rising tide of anecdotal evidence from around the country, chloramine--a known irritant of mucus membranes--can cause extreme asthma-like attacks for some people, and has forced some--including Johnson-Kula and Sunnyvale employee Bruce Dronek--to avoid tap water altogether.

The problem, they say, is even though chloramine is a widely used chemical, there have not been adequate studies done on its health effects.

Dronek--who was first exposed to the chemical while showering in a Sunnyvale gym after work--can no longer use water from anywhere but his well-water-fed home in South San Jose.

"But at least I've got someplace to go," Dronek said. "A lot can't get away because it's used where they live."

Recently, on a two-month business trip to Philadelphia, he said he had persistent flu symptoms until he returned home, and later found out the water he had been drinking and showering in contained chloramine.

According to data collected on the CCAC's website, www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn, there have been no adequate studies done on the effects of chloramine on skin and mucus membranes.

The only study done in response to citizen complaints was a 17-person phone survey conducted between September 2004 and January 2005 by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The survey asked about skin problems, and 15 of the participants responded with claims of dry, burning, red skin and other problems.

The study concluded that there was no consistent pattern.

"There is anecdotal evidence, and it's growing, but we need formal studies done," Johnson-Kula said.

In early 2006, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, who represents cities along the Peninsula from San Carlos to the Almaden Valley, wrote Assembly Bill 2404 to push for studies. That bill has stalled after being given a $350,000 price tag, more than twice the cutoff of $150,000 for projects.

"We asked for studies, and they gave us a website for $350,000," Johnson-Kula said.

A spokesman from Ruskin's office said there is still interest in chloramine studies, and it could come up as a bill next year again.

But even with study efforts stalled, Johnson-Kula and Dronek said they are encouraged by the interest they've seen from people all over the country, from nearby Oakland to Vermont.

To contact Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, call Denise Johnson-Kula at 650.328.0424 or visit www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn. For other chloramine concerns, contact the Santa Clara County Public Health Department at 408.423.0700.



San Francisco Chronicle
July 15, 2006

Water-main breaks proving deadly to fish
Patrick Hoge, Chronicle Staff Writer

Aquarium owners typically know that untreated tap water can kill fish.

And Bay Area water-quality regulators are increasingly concerned that drinking water spilling down storm drains and into creeks has caused fish kills in places like Berkeley and Marin County.

Regional Water Quality Control Board officials are particularly concerned about a disinfectant called chloramine that water agencies nationwide have started to use instead of chlorine. Chloramine, which regulators say is not toxic to humans, is more lethal to aquatic life.

Water officials locally and nationwide have been switching to chloramine -- a mix of chlorine and ammonia that water officials say produces fewer potentially dangerous by-products for people than chlorine. But chloramine is worse for fish because it lasts longer in the environment.

"We need a more effective program put into place that will prevent these fish, frogs and other aquatic life from being killed,'' said Ann Riley, river and watershed restoration adviser for the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board and co-founder of the Urban Creeks Council.

Riley and co-workers became concerned about chloramine after a series of East Bay Municipal Utility District water-main breaks sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of water into three creeks, killing fish on at least two occasions in Berkeley.

Riley has since concluded that EBMUD's protocols for handling breaks, cleaning fire hydrants and replacing pipes are not adequate to prevent chloramine from getting into creeks. Her agency has been preparing to issue a notice of violation to EBMUD.

EBMUD incidents include a water-main break last year that killed 30 Sacramento sucker fish in Strawberry Creek in Berkeley and at least two involving more than 100,000 gallons of water into Codornices Creek, one in 2000 and the other last year. Steelhead have been spawning again in that creek and taxpayer-funded habitat-restoration efforts are under way.

EBMUD spokesman Charles Hardy said that his agency does a good job containing water spills, given that there are 4,000 miles of EBMUD pipe.

On average, EBMUD crews arrive to breaks within 38 minutes, and they are trained to dechloraminate water before it runs into creeks, he said.

Riley, however, said it's not enough, considering that recently there have been about 100 pipe breaks a month, while the government is spending significant amounts of money to restore wildlife to creeks hit with spills.

The State Water Resources Control Board is updating its policy to set statewide chloramine discharge standards for the first time. The agency had considered requiring extensive field monitoring for chloramine but dropped the idea after numerous water agencies, including EBMUD, said it would be impractical.

After creek advocates complained, however, the state agency's water quality chief, Darrin Polhemus, said his agency would likely set discharge limits that local water quality control boards would enforce.

The Marin Municipal Water District, which started using chloramine in 1995, caused two fish kills in 2004. In all, the spills of drinking water killed 33 trout in Corte Madera Creek and Ross Creek. Those trout could have been protected steelhead.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in 2004 became the last major water agency in the region to start using chloramine. Agency spokesman Tony Winnicker said virtually all water that goes into city storm drains goes through the city's sewer system, and thus chloramine is removed before discharge into the bay or ocean. Most cities do not treat their storm water.

Some people question whether the chemical is safe for people, and a group has formed to protest San Francisco's shift to chloramine.

Federal regulators, however, say low levels of chloramine have been used to safely disinfect drinking water for nearly a century.

Chloramine facts

Used as a disinfectant for more than a century

In low doses, not toxic to humans

Produced by combining chlorine and ammonia

Compared with just chlorine, is less likely to react with organic material in water and cause potentially carcinogenic by-products

E-mail Patrick Hoge at .



Mountain View Voice
July 14, 2006

Water wars
LOCAL GROUP GAINS TRACTION IN FIGHT AGAINST CHLORAMINE
By Daniel DeBolt

The city released its annual water confidence report on July 5, saying the city's tap water meets EPA standards and is safe for humans to drink and bathe in.

But since 2004 - the year that local water boards started adding chloramine to the water as a disinfectant - some local residents have lost all confidence in the water and in claims that it is safe.

According to Denise Johnson-Kula of Menlo Park, she broke out into a rash in 2004 and almost died from the effects of chloramine on her lungs during a shower. She now drives to Morgan Hill every week to shower at a relative's house.

As the issue gains more press, people are reporting their problems and concerns to Johnson-Kula and her group, Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, or CCAC. So far, 300 people have documented effects of chloramine to CCAC. These effects range from mild to severe, Johnson-Kula said, with about a third showing severe effects, such as coughing, wheezing, asthma, or blistered and bleeding skin rash.

Mountain View resident Louise Kilkenny has found she is sensitive to chloraminated water. She has lived in her home near Los Altos High School since 1953, and says she never had a problem with the water until chloramine was added in 2004. After she bathed in the new water, she said, her skin turned chronically dry and itchy.

Her dermatologist recommended she bathe in the water as little as possible and use a water filter. She bought a shower-head water filter made by Culligan that she changes every month, but it doesn't completely solve the problem.

More effective filters are prohibitively expensive for most people, Johnson-Kula said.

During a recent trip to Alaska, Kilkenny said, she had no symptoms at all from bathing in the tap water. But upon returning to Mountain View, she was reminded of the telltale odor of chloramines in her home. Although not everyone can smell or taste chloramine, Kilkenny says she can even taste it in her food when tap water is used for cooking.

"Why did they ever figure out they had to do this in the first place?" she asked. "I don't know, but it doesn't make me very happy. If it isn't broke, leave it alone."

SFPUC made the call

The decision to treat Mountain View's water with chloramine was made by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages all Hetch Hetchy water. Shortly after that 2004 decision, the Santa Clara Valley Water District did the same. Other Bay Area water boards, including in Alameda and Marin, are also using chloramine. Sixty percent of the country is expected to convert in the near future, and another 30 percent is planning to switch eventually.

Among the reasons given for using chloramine is that it lasts longer than chlorine as a disinfectant, and is better at killing bacteria without releasing as many tri-halomethanes, which are suspected of causing cancer.

"There's a body of evidence that goes back decades that chloramine is safe in water," said SFPUC spokesman Tony Winnicker.

After two years of the chloramine controversy, Johnson-Kula says she still can't point to a study done on the effects of chloramine by either its proponents or opponents. The EPA admits that there have been no studies on its respiratory and dermal effects in drinking water.

State Assemblyman Ira Ruskin was unsuccessful in pushing a bill through this year to study chloramine in drinking water. The bill, AB2402, died after being held up in the appropriations committee due to cost issues. Ruskin's staff said a new version of the bill will be introduced next year.

The CCAC gained credibility last fall when the board of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, or BAWSCA, sent letters to various governmental agencies asking for studies to prove chloramine is safe. BAWSCA represents 26 cities receiving Hetch Hetchy water. The responses were "spurious" and did not cite scientific studies as proof, said Art Jensen, BAWSCA general manager.

Some studies, including one by the New Jersey Department of Health and another by the World Health Organization, do suggest that chloramine at higher levels affects people's skin and respiratory systems. But a general lack of studies done on chloraminated tap water, Johnson-Kula said, means that use of the chemical is really an experiment conducted on millions of people.

Range of effects

Some have reported severe reactions to drinking chloramine, such as Darlene Nappi of Sunnyvale, whose entire digestive system became inflamed. While in the hospital for gall bladder surgery, she was given food cooked in tap water and became sick again, until she had her husband bring in food prepared with bottled water.

Meanwhile, in Alameda, fish and frog habitat have been wiped out by broken water mains. And people with fish ponds and tanks lost fish in 2004, when they weren't informed that they'd need to take precautions with chloraminated water.

Johnson-Kula said thousands of people are probably effected by the water, especially older people, but don't know it or aren't sure. Kilkenny said she knows many older people in her neighborhood with problems and concerns. One of them is Miriam Hoppi, who said she went to her doctor believing chloramine was making her allergies more pronounced, but was told by her doctor that her body was producing too much histamine. Hoppi said antihistamines have helped her.

Johnson-Kula said it is typical for doctors to not consider that water is causing symptoms, especially when the symptoms suggest asthma or other allergies. Because of the effects on lungs, chloramine heightens people's sensitivity to allergies and respiratory problems, she said.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at

INFORMATION

Visit the Citizens Concerned About Chloramine Web site at www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn. CCAC president Denise Johnson-Kula encourages people to contact her if they believe they are sensitive to chloramine at (650) 328-0424.



The Almanac
Cover Story - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How's the water?
Two years after a new disinfectant was added to the water supply, some residents are still demanding more studies. That may happen, thanks to Assemblyman Ira Ruskin.

by Renee Batti

Denise Johnson-Kula of Menlo Park wasn't in the best of health on February 2, 2004. Yet, she had reason to be optimistic: Her multiple sclerosis had been "clinically stable" for several years, and a skin condition was being "well controlled" by ointments, her doctors said.

But on February 3 of that year, she says, she almost died — and it was the water streaming from her shower head that nearly killed her.

Within minutes of turning on the water, Ms. Johnson-Kula was stricken with symptoms mimicking a severe asthma attack, although she didn't have asthma. Unable to breathe and on the verge of passing out, she struggled to exit the shower and bathroom without falling to the floor.

Afterward, breathing was an effort, and for the next three days she had to sleep sitting up, she recalls.

What was behind this sudden assault on her respiratory system? The cause remained a mystery to her and her doctors until she discovered that on February 2, the day before her frightening ordeal, a new disinfectant was added to the water supply.

Known as chloramine, the additive is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, and is being used by more and more of the nation's cities as a substitute for straight chlorine, which was being used locally before 2004.

Chloramine is now in the water of all customers receiving water from the Hetch Hetchy system, administered by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, or SFPUC. That includes all local residences and businesses, save for a few on well water systems.

Experts say it's safe

The change is a good thing, say SFPUC officials and public health experts throughout the state. "There's a body of evidence that goes back decades that chloramine is safe in water," says SFPUC spokesman Tony Winnicker.

The agency relied on the advice and recommendations of public health agencies to determine that "chloramine disinfectant is the safest — and it keeps water safe for a longer period of time," he says.

And, he and others note, there is no hard "cause and effect" evidence that symptoms reported by Ms. Johnson-Kula and other local residents are a result of chloramine.

But since learning about the addition of chloramine to the water, doing countless hours of research, and hearing from hundreds of others who have suffered a range of symptoms since being exposed to chloraminated water, Ms. Johnson-Kula is adamant in her belief that switching to chloramine was a serious misstep by the water provider.

She maintains that necessary studies haven't been done to prove that chloraminated water is safe for humans, and that "we are the guinea pigs." Inconclusive cancer studies have been abandoned, and no studies have focused on skin and respiratory effects of the additive, says Ms. Johnson-Kula, who has a background in biochemistry.

Two of her doctors at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation have written letters linking her problems to the additive.

In his letter, Dr. Robert Bocian in the department of allergy urged water officials to "make every effort to accommodate [Ms. Johnson-Kula] with an effective means of removing the chloramine from the water supplied to her dwelling. Doing so is hereby stated as a medical necessity for this patient."

Removing chloramine from water is a formidable task, though — and expensive. And because Ms. Johnson-Kula lives in an apartment, it is also impractical.

To challenge the SFPUC's decision to chloraminate water, Ms. Johnson-Kula founded Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, or CCAC. Members advocate a halt to the additive's use until more research is done.

Their efforts attracted the attention of Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City. Mr. Ruskin, chair of the Assembly's Environmental Safety Committee, introduced a bill in February that would lead to more research on chemical disinfectants added to the state's water supply.

Why the switch?

The SFPUC switched from chlorine to chloramine to meet the federal Environmental Protection Agency's mandate to reduce trihalomethanes (THMs) in the water supply; THMs are a byproduct of chlorine, and considered a possible carcinogen.

"Since we introduced chloramines, we've cut [THMs] by more than half," says Mr. Winnicker of the SFPUC.

He notes that the agency finds the use of chloramine as a disinfectant to be not only successful, but cost effective.

According to the SFPUC Web site, "All drinking water suppliers using surface water are required by (the EPA) to use disinfectants to eliminate micro-organisms in drinking water supplies."

Mr. Winnicker says the SFPUC "consistently meets or exceeds standards" for water quality.

Prior to putting the additive in the water, the agency conducted numerous public meetings and waged an intensive public information campaign to notify customers. That included literature in pet stores to alert people with fish that they had to filter aquarium water in a different way.

It also included sending out notices in water bills. Ms. Johnson-Kula and many others who live in apartments didn't receive those notices because their landlords receive the water bills and, in many cases, didn't pass along the information.

Citizens' group

In June 2004, Ms. Johnson-Kula convened the first CCAC meeting. In the nearly two years since, the group has documented more than 200 cases that Ms. Johnson-Kula says show "cause and effect" cases of serious reactions to chloraminated water, including people suffering from intestinal, respiratory and skin problems.

Many of these people now drink and cook with bottled water only, and some can't use their tap water for bathing and brushing their teeth in the way they could before. That includes Ms. Johnson-Kula, who now has to limit her showers to one a week, when she visits her mother in Morgan Hill. The water there is chloramine-free.

Members have also given community presentations, and attended meetings of public boards to voice their concerns.

The group's first victory was last fall, when the North Coast County Water District in Pacifica responded to a CCAC presentation by sending letters to the SFPUC and the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency pushing for more studies on the health effects of chloramine.

The board of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, or BAWSCA, is composed of representatives from all 26 cities or water districts receiving water from the Hetch Hetchy system. After receiving the Pacifica water agency's letter, BAWSCA's general manager Art Jensen wrote to several key public health agencies, asking about past, future and ongoing studies on the epidemiological, dermatological and respiratory effects on humans of chloraminated water.

The responses, he says, were not satisfactory and were, in some cases, "spurious." After contacting several agencies by phone later, he concluded that the agencies were unable to cite studies he asked about.

Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson, who represents Menlo Park on the BAWSCA board, says that as a result of the health agencies' inability to produce the studies, she has come to view the CCAC's position in a different light.

"They're looking more and more credible," she says. On the BAWSCA board since June 2005, she says board members "went from ... thinking that these (CCAC) speakers were crackpots to gradually thinking, you know, they have a point here."

Now, she says, the board wants the SFPUC "to sit up and take notice of this and to take this seriously. ... This is an important human health topic and we need to get to the bottom of it."

The Ruskin bill

The BAWSCA board is also in full support of Assemblyman's Ruskin's bill, AB 2402, which has advanced to the Assembly's fiscal committee. The outcome of that committee's deliberations are expected to be known by the end of May, says Caroll Mortensen, chief consultant for the Environmental Safety Committee.

The bill authorizes studies to "identify potentially dangerous drinking water disinfection byproducts and their persistence in the environment," and to identify and develop alternatives to chemical disinfectants.

It also would make data and analysis resulting from the studies available on the Internet "to create a one-stop shop for people to find pros and cons of all kinds of chemical disinfections," Ms. Mortensen explains.

The studies, she notes would be costly. But even if the bill doesn't clear the fiscal committee, "The issue is still of great [importance] to Mr. Ruskin," she adds. "Even if something bad happens to the bill, it doesn't mean he isn't going to continue studying the issue."

Mr. Winnicker of the SFPUC says his agency "absolutely supports the bill. We're always interested in the most recent and thorough information about water quality."

Symptoms

Meanwhile, public officials urge people who think they are having reactions to chloramine to see their doctors and, if the doctor links the symptoms to the additive, send a report to the appropriate public health officials.

That list of people would include the 200-plus who have contacted CCAC to report their symptoms, such as Betty West of Portola Valley. A resident of The Sequoias senior community, Ms. West had a severe skin reaction after using a Jacuzzi around the time chloramine was added to the water.

Her doctor could find no apparent cause, and she's convinced that the welts and other skin conditions she developed in those days are the direct result of chloramine.

Now, she collects water in pails on her deck to wash her hair, and she uses bottled water for drinking and bathing. She's also given up eating rice and cereal cooked with chloraminated water and served in The Sequoias' dining hall.

She says she heads to her family home in San Jose more weekends than she otherwise would just to enjoy the chloramine-free water.

The list also includes Ken Russo, a tradesman from South San Francisco who says chloraminated water caused both respiratory and skin problems.

His is a grimy business, he says, and in the past he enjoyed his long hot showers to wash away the dirt and sweat. Now, "I've reduced my showers, and don't suffer as much from skin rashes and breathing problems."

Alphabet soup

SFPUC: The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages water from the Hetch Hetchy system, delivering it to San Francisco and three Bay Area counties.

BAWSCA: Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, which represents 26 cities and water districts receiving water from the SFPUC.

CCAC: Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, leading the grassroots effort to remove chloramine from the water supply until more research is done to determine its short- and long-term health effects. Denise Johnson-Kula of Menlo Park is president.



The Sunnyvale Sun
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Assemblyman is concerned about effects of chloramine
Ira Ruskin working on legislation to demand testing of disinfectant

By JASON GOLDMAN-HALL
When most people complain about tap water, it's about the taste or smell, but for some in Sunnyvale and around the Bay Area, the water appears far more hazardous.

Since March of 2004, a number of Sunnyvale residents and some who work or visit the city and use the water have complained about irritation and asthma-like symptoms after using tap water or inhaling steam in showers.

According to members of the Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, an increase in those cases corresponds with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission introducing chloramine--a combination of chlorine and ammonia--to the water supply as a disinfectant.

Now, two years later, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin--who represents District 21, which includes13 cities from San Carlos to San Jose--is working on legislation to demand further testing of chloramine and a look at alternative disinfectants.

"As the former chair of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, I've had a long-standing interest in water, and I was aware of the concerns about chloramine," Ruskin said.

After meeting with Concerned Citizens' leader Denise Johnson-Kula at a BAWSCA meeting, Ruskin had his staff look into the issue, and he decided to take action.

For Johnson-Kula and the hundreds of people with whom she shares information, the bill is what they've been hoping to bring about for two years. They have held public meetings up and down the Peninsula and send out countless information packets on the health risks of chloramine.

Ruskin hopes Assembly Bill 2402, when finished, will help bring some relief to the people who have been sharing their stories with him in the past two years.

"The anecdotal evidence continues to mount, and I think it's right to take a good look at the subject so we can see what's really going on," he said.

The SFPUC--which provides almost half of Sunnyvale's water--has routinely denied that its testing has found any significant hazard from chloramine.

According to a spokeswoman for the commission, chloramine is now used because it is less expensive and lasts longer in the water supply than the chlorine that was used previously.

But according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, chloramine irritates eyes and respiratory tracts and can cause asthmatic symptoms if inhaled. And the same resiliency that makes it a good long-term disinfectant also complicates the issue for sensitive people because it cannot be easily filtered out of water like chlorine.

To contact Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, call Denise Johnson-Kula at 650.328.0424 or visit www.www.rouxingpingmu.cn. For other concerns about chloramine issues, contact the Santa Clara County Public Health Department at 408.423.0700.



San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, October 9, 2005

OPEN FORUM
Examining Our H2O
Making great water better?

Denise Johnson-Kula

On Feb. 2, 2004, with no public input and minimal notification, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission switched from chlorine to sanitize its water supplies to chloramine, a combination of chlorine and ammonia.

The introduction of chloramine has compromised our safety. Many residents, unaware of the changeover, suddenly began to experience health effects: burning skin; red rashes; itching; dry mouth and throat; digestive problems; coughing; wheezing; sinus congestion; and severe asthma symptoms. Some individuals' serious and debilitating symptoms were documented by their physicians. Foul taste and odor of the water were also reported.

Complaints to city utilities or water providers were referred to the SFPUC, which offered little help. The agency acknowledged that chloramine kills fish and amphibians, but it was dismissive of reports of individual physical symptoms. The SFPUC claims that chloramine is "safe," and that it was "making great water better." However, a review of the scientific literature reveals that the human health effects of chloramine have not been studied.

The Environmental Protection Agency stated clearly in a 1999 report that there are no scientific studies on skin or respiratory effects of chloramine. It further states that the limited cancer studies done so far are inadequate for assessing if chloramine can cause the skin or respiratory problems people reported or whether it can cause cancer.

The World Health Organization states in its 1996 "Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality" that chloramine is a much less effective disinfectant than chlorine. WHO recommends that people with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV and AIDS patients or those undergoing chemotherapy, must now boil their water for 10 minutes before drinking or they risk becoming ill.

Because of complaints from residents, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors endorsed a resolution on Dec. 7, 2004, asking the California Conference of Local Health Officials to evaluate the potentially harmful health effects of chloramine. But it came as a disappointment that in its March 8 follow-up, the conference revealed that it did not conduct any health studies on chloramine. It simply reviewed the existing literature. This literature focuses mainly on chlorine and its disinfection byproducts, such as trihalomethanes. (The EPA now regulates the allowable levels of trihalomethanes, which are possible carcinogens formed when chlorine combines with organic matter in water. In the switch to chloramine, the formation of trihalomethanes are lowered only by one-third -- just enough for the SFPUC to comply with the new EPA requirements).

The conference concluded in its report that, based on the "available" evidence:

-- Chloramine is "adequate" as a disinfectant. (Fact: WHO states that chlorine is actually superior to chloramine.)

-- When compared to chlorine, chloramine "appears" to be the better choice because it lowers the levels of disinfection byproducts. (Fact: The conference did not consider any ways to lower disinfectant byproducts other than the use of chloramine.)

-- Chloramine causes "no known" adverse health effects. (Fact: The EPA notes there are no studies on chloramine's health effects. Because there are no studies, there are "no known" adverse health effects.)

Furthermore, the conference recommended that the public be monitored for health effects related to the use of chloramine. But we the public never agreed to be used as guinea pigs to determine whether chloramine is safe for human health.

Appropriate laboratory studies should have been completed before the public was exposed to this untested chemical. Some people cannot use the water at all and must rely exclusively on bottled water. Filtration for low-flow uses is available for a few hundred dollars, but for high-flow uses such as bathing, showering and laundry, a house filtration system (costing approximately $15,000 to install) is necessary.

The SFPUC says it has no chloramine alternative, though the EPA offers several choices. The best solution comes from WHO, which recommends that the formation of trihalomethanes be minimized by filtering the organic matter in the water before final disinfection with chlorine, thus eliminating trihalomethanes altogether.

The SFPUC should acknowledge the reported negative health effects from the use of chloramine and initiate real laboratory studies to investigate them. For those presently suffering the dire effects of chloramine exposure, grants and loans for whole-house filtration should be provided. Ultimately, chloramine should be removed from our water supply and prefiltration implemented. Then we can truly say that we are making our great water even better.

Denise Johnson-Kula is president of Citizens Concerned about Chloramine ().



CCLHO
California Conference of Local Health Officers
Department of Health Services
1501 Capitol Avenue, Suite 71.6065
P.O. Box 997413, MS 7003
Sacramento, CA 95899-7413
Fax: (916) 440-7595 Office: (916) 440-7594
Roberta Lawson, RDH, MPH, Executive Administrator

March 8, 2005

Dear Health Officer:

The California Conference of Local Health Officers (CCLHO) has reviewed current knowledge and evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of monochloramine used for residual disinfection of the public drinking water supply. Based on the best available evidence in the biomedical literature, we conclude that:

  • Monochloramine, when used as a public water system disinfectant, will adequately protect the public's health by controlling exposure to waterborne organisms known to cause infectious diseases in humans.
  • Drinking water treated with monochloramine is not known to cause significant adverse human health effects.
  • Relative to chlorine, monochloramine will result in lower levels of potentially hazardous chemical disinfection by-products, allowing utilities to meet or exceed current regulatory requirements for limiting disinfection by-products.
  • Monochloramine appears to be the better available method when compared with chlorine for residual disinfection of public drinking water supplies in which high concentrations of trihalomethanes or haloacetic acids result from chlorination.

CCLHO further recommends that studies to monitor for possible health effects related to the use of monochloramine continue, and that public drinking water utilities be attentive to technical considerations related to water chemistry when initiating and maintaining monochloramine disinfection.

Attached are a bibliography of reviewed materials and a summary of technical considerations related to monochloramine disinfection.

Sincerely,

(Original signed by:)

Scott Morrow, M.D., M.P.H.
President, CCLHO

Attachments: Appendix A
 Appendix B


Chloramine in Vermont


The Other Paper
July 12, 2007

Annette Smith

CWD Report Ignores Health Problems

Champlain Water District (CWD) consumers recently received the CWD's Water Quality 2007 report via newspaper insert.

Because of numerous complaints about CWD water since the introduction of chloramine in April 2006, Vermonters for a Clean Environment has been learning about this complicated subject.

The CWD's Water Quality 2006 report claimed widespread public confidence in their water. A similar claim is notably absent from the 2007 report, as is any acknowledgment of the many, many complaints about health problems from CWD water including rashes, respiratory and digestive problems since the switch to chloramine.

CWD's 2007 report is full of graphs, charts and technical information about disinfection by-products (DBPs) of chlorine, which the EPA is requiring water system operators to reduce by 2012. The report cites findings from the EPA that long-term exposure to chlorine DBPs may result in an increased cancer or reproductive health issues.

However, recent research has disproved the link between DBPs and reproductive health issues. Further, the EPA conducted inadequate research on chloramine DBPs prior to encouraging water system operators to use chloramine. Scientists are now discovering chloramine DBPs that are far more toxic than those known to be created by chlorine.

Vermont's legislature held hearings about the chloramine problem during the recent legislative session, and encouraged the Vermont Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation to develop a stakeholder group to explore alternatives to chloramine. You did not read about the stakeholder group in the CWD's Water Quality 2007 report, perhaps because the CWD has refused to participate.

Careful reading of the 2006 and 2007 reports clearly show that the CWD was well within compliance with standards prior to adding chloramine. In other words, chloramine is not necessary at this time.

Citizens and businesses served by the CWD continue to suffer the health effects of exposure to chloraminated water. Consumers who can afford to have installed expensive whole-house water treatment systems (chlorine can be filtered out cheaply but chloramine cannot). Users who cannot afford these filters travel outside the CWD to shower. They buy bottled water for drinking and cooking. If your health is affected by chloramine, you cannot use the water in your home.

The CWD is choosing to ignore complaints and refuses to engage in discussions about alternatives. This is not good public service. CWD customers who are having health problems are right to be outraged by this breakdown in health protection. The CWD needs to stop playing defense and start working with state agencies and customers to find an alternative to chloramine.

If your doctor is prescribing steroidal creams and inhalers, if you were previously free of skin rashes and asthma but are now having problems, talk to your doctor. Be aware, though, that your doctor will not be able to make a clinical diagnosis because there are no studies about chloramine's health effects on people. Report problems to the CWD, call the Vermont Department of Health, Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources and your legislator. Learn more by going to www.vce.org/chloramine, and contact People Concerned about Chloramine at 802-651-8753.

By working together, we can assure safe drinking water for all.

Annette Smith is executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, a grassroots organization based in Danby, Vermont. VCE grew out of a project proposed for southwestern Vermont in 1999, and has become a statewide organization dealing with issues of concern to Vermonters such as mining, pesticides, large farms, energy, safe drinking water and water rights. A graduate of Vassar College, Smith lives off the grid with solar panels on a small farm, hand milks a cow and grows most of her own food.

Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.
789 Baker Brook Rd.
Danby, VT 05739
(802) 446-2094
http://www.vce.org/




Burlington Free Press
April 29, 2007

Annette Smith, Executive Director, Vermonters for a Clean Environment

My Turn: Concern about chloramine must be taken seriously

Most Vermonters believe that our state is blessed with an abundance of clean water. Unfortunately, the reality is murkier.

About 60 percent of Vermonters get their drinking water from groundwater wells. Groundwater can contain minerals and impurities such as arsenic, uranium, nitrates, or other contaminants. Owners of private wells should have their water tested annually and then install appropriate filters to assure its safety.

The rest of Vermonters get their water from springs, streams or lakes, using surface or "natural" water. Even water that starts out clean requires treatment to make sure it is safe.

Many of us trust that tap water is healthy, no matter what the source or treatment. But changes in federal rules governing public water supplies require that public water system customers pay special attention to what is being added to your water and how it might affect you.

Vermont has joined the growing number of states with public water systems that are switching from free chlorine to chloramine as a water disinfectant. In April 2006, the Champlain Water District, which serves 68,000 people in Chittenden County, began adding ammonium sulfate to the chlorine, creating chloramine. Almost immediately, some water district customers complained about skin and breathing problems after using the water.

Over time, complaints have increased, both in the types of symptoms and the number of people who say they can no longer bathe in their own home or drink and cook with the water. While chlorine can be filtered out inexpensively, chloramine cannot be easily removed.

Why is this change happening? Chlorine disinfection has almost completely eliminated the risks from waterborne diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery, but research has found there are some possible health problems when chlorine reacts with organic matter.

In response to these concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued new, stricter standards for public water supplies to reduce levels of "disinfection byproducts" created by chlorine. EPA has given its blessing to chloramine or chlorine dioxide to meet this new rule, even though chloramine's disinfection byproducts may be more toxic than chlorine's and are still being identified. Other accepted disinfection methods include microfiltration, ozone, and ultraviolet light.

There is compelling evidence that chloramine has unintended consequences for some water users. Since systems in the greater San Francisco area switched to chloramine in 2004, more than 600 people there have reported health problems they believe are caused by chloramine. Washington, D.C., experienced high lead levels after the introduction of chloramine.

Some state water supply directors have decided against using chloramine because it is known to be an inferior disinfectant, can be corrosive, and there is concern about health effects. Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia are choosing not to dip into the uncharted waters of chloramination.

The most disturbing aspect of chloramine is how the public is treated when they bring their concerns about health effects to public health officials and those in charge of the water systems. Until the legislatures got involved in both Vermont and California, there had been no action.

Doctors are now being asked to respond to a survey by the Vermont Department of Health. But since there are no human health studies for respiratory and dermal exposure to chloramine, it may be impossible for doctors to clinically connect the symptoms people are experiencing with the water.

A year after the Champlain Water District started chloramination, health complaints from residents continue to increase. It should not have taken a year for allegations of health problems to be taken seriously. As David Ozonoff, professor of environmental health and chairman emeritus of the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health, said in a letter presented by Vermonters for a Clean Environment to the Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee two weeks ago, "health complaints from water users attendant upon any treatment change are a red flag and need attention."

Champlain Water District, please listen.

Annette Smith of Danby is executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment Inc.



Seven Days, Vermont's Alternative Webweekly
March 28, 2007

Ken Picard

Senate Checks Out Health Impact of New Water Additive
CHLORAMINES (03.28.07)

MONTPELIER —Chittenden County lawmakers were asking the Vermont Department of Health and the Champlain Water District tough questions last week about a new chemical disinfectant being used in Vermont’s largest public water system. Some residents claim the additive is making them sick and have asked state health officials to get more aggressive in investigating their complaints.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare heard two afternoons of testimony on the use of chloramines, a chemical additive that CWD first began putting in the water in April 2006. CWD is the first and only water system in Vermont to have switched to chloramines. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends chloramines as “the best available technology” for reducing disinfection byproducts, which can be dangerous to human health.

Since then, however, more than 130 residents have come forward with a range of health complaints — including burning and bloodshot eyes, skin rashes, difficulty breathing and chest pains — that they claim are caused by exposure to chloramines. Many of those people have also contacted Sen. Ginny Lyons (D–Chittenden) and Sen. Doug Racine (D–Chittenden), who chairs the committee and called the hearing.

Rebecca Reno of South Burlington is founder of the local citizens’ group, People Concerned About Chloramines (PCAC). She told the committee that she no longer drinks, bathes in or cooks with her tap water because of the problems it causes her. Reno also said she and others have complained to CWD and the health department, but officials have been “dismissive” of their grievances.

In fact, VDH epidemiologist Dr. Bill Bress, in a letter to the editor in the November 1, 2006, issue of Seven Days, touted the safety of chloramines and accused Reno and her group of “campaigning against the CWD.” But, as Reno testified, there are no epidemiologic studies addressing the potential adverse effects of chloramines on human health.

“I believe the CWD made a mistake with chloramines, and I don’t know why they’re digging in their heels and looking the other way,” Reno said. “I believe that if they were truly proactive, they would broaden their vision to include human suffering and the future health of Vermonters.”

CWD officials have said that chloramines are a preferable form of secondary disinfectant because they dissipate more slowly than chlorine. They say this is important in CWD’s vast distribution network, which serves 12 municipal water systems over an area of 70 square miles.

VDH officials told the committee they’ve received only about 40 complaints from the public about chloramines. Acting Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt told the committee Thursday that when her department first began receiving complaints, officials reached out to medical providers in Chittenden County. They never heard back about any unexplained ailments that might be attributable to chloramines exposure.

But Committee Chair Doug Racine (D–Chittenden) sounded skeptical. “I, for one, in my 16 years in this building, haven’t heard a single complaint about our water until this year,” he said. “It feels like something is going on.”

Senator Lyons said she believes they followed the letter of the law in assessing the consequences of using chloramines. But she wants to be sure the decision was the right one. She also wants to determine whether, in the future, the state health department should have a more formal role in reviewing what gets added to water supplies.

“At some point you have to ask, What’s right for the state of Vermont, to maintain the very highest protection of our water quality?” Lyons said. “Beyond that, how do we ensure the public trust is there? If you lose public trust, you lose a great deal.”

Racine acknowledged the health department’s need to rely on conclusive research when assessing public-health threats. However, he noted “a pattern of complacency” and a “passive approach” by the health department in response to such worries.

“When you’re dealing with public health, you ought to be taking these anecdotal concerns more seriously,” Racine added. “I just wish they’d done it six months ago without having to be pushed by a committee of the legislature.”

According to Racine, VDH and CWD officials agreed to “get very aggressive” in talking to people with water concerns. They will also ask that anyone who has visited a doctor because of a suspected reaction to water sign a privacy waiver, to help officials understand the causes of such problems.


RELATED STORY: Seven Days investigated chloramines prior to their introduction a year ago [March 29, 2006, "Champlain Water District Switches Its Chemical Mix"].



Vermont Guardian
March 22, 2007

Justin Dragos

Residents fight for safe drinking water

SOUTH BURLINGTON — Nearly one year ago, the Champlain Water District became the first municipal water provider in Vermont to add an additional disinfectant called chloramine to its potable water system.

The following day, Ellen Powell of South Burlington, one of the nine towns served by Champlain Water District (CWD), started experiencing irritations in her eyes and on her skin, as well as problems breathing.

Suspecting that chloramine might be responsible, since nothing else was new to her water supply, she immediately sent a letter to the editor of newspapers throughout Chittenden County. The responses she received confirmed her fears. Other residents were claiming to have experienced similar symptoms.

Local concern over the chloramination of the tap water led Powell to help form a group called People Concerned about Chloramine (PCAC). More than 130 people have since come forward with reports of what they believe to be chloramine-related problems.

The CWD maintains that monochloramine — which is formed by chemically bonding chorine with ammonia — is entirely safe for human consumption and use. It is one of three disinfectants sanctioned by the EPA for use in potable water systems along with chlorine and chlorine dioxide.

PCAC, however, asserts that there are a number of reasons why chloramine should not be used. “Among the many concerns we have about chloramine, there are eight key points,” says Rebecca Reno, a PCAC member. “One is that there has been no adequate testing on the skin or respiratory effects of chloramine on human beings.”

Dale Kemery, a spokesman for the regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said such tests have been conducted. They are contained in a 155-page public report.

However, the report clearly states that information on the human health effects of chloramines “are limited to a few clinical reports and epidemiologic studies. There are no epidemiologic studies that have been designed to address specifically the potential adverse effects of exposure to chloramines on human health.”

The report also claims that such testing has not been done on animals either.

CWD claims studies have been performed on the skin and respiratory effects of chloramine on human beings and provided the Guardian with a list of chloramine related health studies. Several studies pertained to the digestive effects of chloramines, but none focused on the respiratory effects of chloramine on human beings. And, there was only one study on the dermal effects in humans.

This study, conducted by June Wientraub in California, consisted of 17 phone interviews with people claiming chloramine-related symptoms. Wientraub concluded, “The complaints described were heterogeneous, and many of the respondents had underlying or preexisting conditions that would offer plausible alternative explanations for their symptoms. We did not recommend further study of these complaints.”

A growing concern
Many of the people who have come forward claiming side effects have reported symptoms that are consistent with those experienced in districts throughout the country. Complaints have arisen in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Texas.

“I think the 400-plus people who have come forward here in the bay area goes a long way in proving a cause and effect relationship,” said Denise Kula, founder of Citizens Concerned about Chloramine, a San Francisco-based organization.

CWD officials say such claims are unproven.

“To date no reported symptoms have been linked by evidence-based physician diagnosis to be related to CWD’s drinking water,” CWD officials said in a four-page flyer responding to PCAC’s claims.

“It’s a catch-22,” said Reno.“If there is no formal testing done on the respiratory or dermal effects then there is no criteria upon which doctors can make an informed diagnosis.”

Many people in the area have performed tests on their own. They have refrained from using CWD’s water for weeks at time in order to see for themselves if it is the cause of their problems.

“Nearly every person who has done this finds that within days their symptoms are gone. As soon as they start taking showers in their own home again, they return,” said Reno.

Powell is one of the many people who continue to avoid using their own water. “I have to drive seven miles just to shower. Why would I or anyone else do this if we weren’t absolutely sure that our symptoms were coming from our faucets?” she said.

Unlike chlorine, chloramine cannot be boiled out of the water or removed by letting the water sit out. It can only be removed by expensive home filtering systems which cost thousands of dollars.

The World Health Organization claims “chloramine is 2,000 to 100,000 times less effective than free chloramines for inactivation of E. Coli and rotaviruses.” Chlorine however, can result in cancer causing disinfectant byproducts that chloramine can reduce. PCAC asserts that there are other methods to reduce these byproducts such as prefiltration.

The Canadian EPA calls chloramine “toxic to the environment,” but it allows it to be used in tap water.

Toxic water spill?
Aside from the human effects, PCAC is worried it will harm aquatic life. CWD has issued warnings to homeowners before adding chloramine and the impact it might have on aquatic pets.

For many, the question this raises is “what are the potential effects on the eco-system if chloramine were to find its way into the watershed?”

According to Mike Barsotti, the director of water quality control at CWD, this is not a threat.

“Chloramine will not remain in the water outside of a controlled system,” Barsotti. Because the water mixes with so many other substances, the chloramines are used up in a matter of hours or days.

“The ground interface does not have the conditions of a clean, disinfected water system [because of dirt, etc.], and therefore, the chlorine residual from free chlorine and monochloramines dissipates much more quickly at the ground interface,” Barsotti said.

This does not rule out the possible environmental damage were a water main to break.

“There have been some instances of fish kills due to breaks of water mains where the utility has not been able to contain the spill or direct the water into sewers for transport to the wastewater treatment plant, but these are not common,” said Kemery of the EPA.

Reno believes CWD could meet new EPA drinking water standards without chloramines, such as using prefiltration.

A new set of sanitation goals spurred on by a series of EPA guidelines under the Safe Drinking Water Act calls for a reduction in the allowed level of disinfectant by-products (DBPs) in potable water. Chloramine has succeeded in decreasing to levels far beyond EPA requirements.

It is wondered whether these regulations could have been more moderately met through alternative measures.

Prefiltration is a method of filtering total organic carbon (TOC) out of the water prior to disinfection. TOC reacts with chlorine to form DBPs.

CWD does use a prefiltration method known as enhanced coagulation, Barsotti said. This method removes 25 to 35 percent of TOC. He states that because of CWD’s deep Shelburne Bay water source, which starts out with a low TOC level compared to other water districts, CWD does not use the more common and thorough method of prefiltration known as carbon contracting. This latter method, Barsotti adds, contains several drawbacks such as necessitating large amounts of fuel and landfill space in the transportation and disposal of waste matter produced from this method.

However, this method would reduce the level of TOC and, as logic follows, the level of DBPs in the drinking water. Whether it would reduce them to levels meeting EPA regulations is disputed.

Additionally, it is also asserted that chloramine has its own byproducts — dichloramine and trichloramine.

“It is impossible for CWD water to drop to these extremely low pH levels due to the natural buffering capacity of the deep Shelburne Bay source. CWD’s optimized monochloramines residual actually eliminates the possibility of dichloramine and trichloramine being formed,” said Barsotti.

What’s on tap
With CWD the first, and arguably the largest, water system in Vermont approving the use of chloramines — will other districts follow?

As of right now, it appears there are no concrete plans for the addition of chloramine anywhere else in Vermont. While some water districts have expressed doubts over chloramine, few have ruled out completely the idea of adding it in the future.

Tom Dion, the chief operator of water at Burlington Public Works, said that their DBP level does not warrant adding chloramines. Like CWD, Burlington sources its water from Lake Champlain.

Officials in Berlin and Bennington also said they had no immediate plans to add chloramines, but would consider it if necessary, or as a last resort.

John Highter, chief operator of Brattleboro’s water treatment plant, said the town has no intention of adding chloramine. “I’m a little hesitant about ever mixing ammonia and chlorine together in our water,” Highter said.

Chloramine has been used in water for 90 years. However, it has only been used as disinfectant in the past few decades. Prior to this, it was used in very small dosages primarily to rid water of unpleasant taste.

This week, PCAC will present its case before the Legislature. Experts from both sides will give statements.

For Powell, the end result is simple: “We want this stuff out of our water.”



Seven Days, Vermont's Alternative Webweekly
August 2, 2006

Ken Picard

Complaints Surface About New Water Disinfection Method CHAMPLAIN WATER DISTRICT (08.02.06)

SOUTH BURLINGTON - Nancy Fitzgerald says she can't shower or wash her face in her tap water unless the chemical disinfectant chloramine, which is added to the water to make it safer, has been filtered out. "I'm a healthy person," says Fitzgerald, 50. "This is just weird."

Fitzgerald says her problems with her water began in May, when after taking a shower she noticed her eyes were burning and bloodshot. She didn't think much of it until it began happening repeatedly. On another occasion, she reports, the water stung her skin as if she had sunburn, and caused her nose to run incessantly. While Fitzgerald was away on a week's vacation, the symptoms disappeared, only to return when she began to shower at home again. Then she started to "connect the dots," she says.

Fitzgerald had read a letter to the editor from Ellen Powell of South Burlington, who was complaining of similar problems with her water. Powell has formed People Concerned About Chloramines, a citizens' group that claims various health problems that have recently arisen in the area are caused by the chloriminated water. At least two dozen people have contacted the group complaining of symptoms such as bloodshot eyes, rashes, burning skin, sinus and nasal congestion, coughing, wheezing and choking.

The Champlain Water District is Vermont's largest water supplier, serving about 68,000 people in 12 municipal water systems throughout Chittenden County, including Winooski and South Burlington. The district's vast water-distribution network includes 55 miles of water mains and another 500 miles of connector pipes to homes and businesses. In April, CWD was the first in the state to switch from the use of "free chlorine" to a "chloramine residual." Chloramines don't dissipate as quickly as chlorine.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recommended that public water systems switch to the use of chloramine as the "best available technology" for reducing the presence of so-called disinfection byproducts, which can be harmful to human health. Disinfection byproducts such as trihalomethanes have been linked to certain types of cancer as well as reproductive and developmental problems.

Mike Barsotti, CWD's director of water quality and production, says the switch to chloramine has been "amazingly smooth" and has already resulted in a 44 percent reduction in trihalomethanes and a 63 percent reduction in haloacidic acids, another harmful disinfection byproduct.

Barsotti also notes that his office has received about a dozen complaints from the public since the changeover in April. However, he's unconvinced that chloramine is to blame for these health problems. "I believe at this point that that number is not statistically significant," he says. "I also believe that they haven't been verified by a doctor, which is important to the health department."

Nevertheless, Barsotti says that CWD is taking every complaint seriously. Anyone who is experiencing problems with their water is being asked to complete a questionnaire, which is then forwarded to the Vermont Department of Health. As of last week, the department had received 15 of those forms, as well as three direct phone complaints. State epidemiologist Bill Bress says he plans to meet with representatives from CWD and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation this week to discuss the matter. But Bress won't speculate about what's causing the problems.

Barsotti asserts that chlorimination is a safe and effective method of water disinfection, currently being used for about 40 million people in the United States and 8 million in Canada. He points to a study conducted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health after its public water system, which serves 2.4 million people, switched over to chloramine.

That study, which investigated a small number of reported complaints, found that the symptoms were "heterogeneous," that is, possibly caused by a variety of other underlying or preexisting factors. The report concluded there wasn't enough evidence to support a more in-depth study or a reconsideration of the use of chloramine as San Francisco's water-treatment method.

But not everyone is convinced that enough is known about chloramine to draw definitive conclusions about its safety. Martin Wolf is a chemist with Burlington-based Seventh Generation, the nation's leading producer of environmentally friendly household products. As director of product and environmental technology, Wolf's job is to evaluate the products Seventh Generation sells to ensure that they're safe, effective and nontoxic, and reflect the company's core values.

Several months ago, Wolf, who lives in Shelburne, was contacted by People Concerned About Chloramines and asked for his opinion on chloramine. Wolf - who emphasizes he's speaking on his own behalf and not as a company spokesperson - says he researched the matter and discovered that there's "precious little" in the scientific literature about the health effects of chronic or sub-chronic chloramine exposure.

"I think that every concerned citizen reasonably should ask, 'Is it appropriate to change over to this disinfection system when so little is known about it?'" he says. Wolf doesn't agree that the number of people experiencing problems with their water is "statistically insignificant."

"It's reasonable to assume that at the very low levels at which they're present - 2-and-a-half parts per million - [chloramines] are going to be safe, until you consider that you're exposing tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people to them," he adds. "And then those people who have unique body chemistries or sensitivities begin to show up."

Wolf says he was able to find only two studies on the carcinogenicity of chloramine. One showed no apparent carcinogenic effect in male rats; the other showed a possible carcinogenic effect in female rats. The EPA's own literature notes that no health studies have been done on the relationship between chloramine and skin or respiratory symptoms. As Wolf points out, "a mouse, a rat or a rabbit has difficulty telling you what it's feeling."

For her part, Fitzgerald admits that she didn't see a physician about her symptoms. Since she only experienced problems when bathing in her own home, she consulted several water experts, then decided to invest in a water-filtration system for her entire house. Apparently, it made a big difference - as did the $1500 price tag. "In terms of my budget," Fitzgerald says, "I needed that like a hole in my head."



Vermont Guardian
April 28 - May 4, 2006

Can safe drinking water be harmful?

By Ellen Powell

Earlier this month, the Champlain Water District (CWD) stopped disinfecting the drinking water with chlorine and began using monochloramine, a chemical compound made of chlorine and ammonia.

The district serves a number of towns near Burlington, including Shelburne, South Burlington, Williston, Essex Junction, Essex, Jericho Village, Milton, Winooski, and parts of Colchester.

I had a conversation with Denise Johnson-Kula, President of Citizens Concerned About Chloramines (CCAC) in San Mateo County, CA, where the Hetch-Hetchy water system has been chloraminating the drinking water for two years.

She has a background in biochemistry, and she had a lot to tell me:

Monochloramine never exists alone. And, it always exists as a combination of monochloramine, dichloramine, and trichloramine. Chloramines are strong respiratory irritants. Of them, trichloramine is considered the most toxic.

What some scientists have missed until now, in their focus on several disinfection by-products, is that chloramines are respiratory and dermal initants, and can he harmful to the elderly, children, and people who are already sick.

Heated water releases more of the di- and tri-chloramines into the air. Toxic vapors are then released in showers, hot tubs, indoor swimming pools, boiling water on the stove, steam from clothes dryers, dishwashers, etc. They may accumulate in areas such as a shower stall, small kitchen, bathroom, or apartment.

Reactions go from mild (red burning eyes, dry skin) to severe (sinus congestion, coughing, wheezing, asthma, burning/itching/skin sores). Symptoms can be immediate or take days to months of exposure to develop. Respiratory symptoms tend to increase over time. Since no studies have been conducted on skin or respiratory effects of chloraminated water, doctors cannot diagnose symptoms.

Showerhead filters do not work to remove chloramines.

Unlike chlorine, chloramines are almost impossible to remove. They cannot be boiled or distilled out, or filtered out inexpensively. Chlorine evaporates out of standing water very quickly whereas chloramines take a few weeks to evaporate.

An official with the Champlain Water District told me that to remove chloramines, I should purchase a filter that uses carbon and reverse osmosis (for both chemicals). The least expensive kitchen counter model cost me $355, and it cannot be used in high flow situations; i.e., showers, etc. It can only be used for cold drinking water.

Hot beverages containing chloramines such as soups, tea, and coffee, can cause digestive problems, ranging from heartburn to acid reflux to irritable bowel, along with aggravating respiratory sensitivity. Boiling tends to concentrate the ammonia in the water over time. Rats in one study consumed food and water containing chloramines and developed gastric cancer from chloramines' corrosive effect on their stomach mucosa.

Toxicologists and California Health Department officials are currently reviewing this new information on the toxicity of chloramines, and are stunned that no studies have been conducted.

California State Rep. Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, introduced a bill that would seek alternatives to using chloramines in drinking water. He's received more calls on this issue than any other on his agenda, and from people all over California from people reporting health effects from chloramines.

To learn more on chloramines in California call the CCAC Hotline at (650) 328-0424, or send an e-mail to vtccac@yahoo.com. And, if you'd like to see more discussion in Vermont, contact your local state representative or senator. Or, if you are served by the Champlain Water District, contact them at 864-7454.

Ellen Powell lives in South Burlington.


Chloramine in Other States


The Patriot-News
August 10, 2007

Water company delays use of new chemical

Pennsylvania American Water announced today that it will delay the use of a controversial new disinfectant at its West Shore and Silver Spring water treatment plants.

Some residents had questioned the safety of the chemical, chloramine, which is a weak mix of chlorine and ammonia. Several municipalities, including Camp Hill and Hampden, Silver Spring and East Pennsboro townships, had asked the state Public Utilities Commission to delay the introduction of chloramine to the water until more studies can be done.

Citizen activist Susan Pickford of Camp Hill said there have been customer complaints elsewhere that chloramine in the water causes skin rashes and respiratory problems. "I'm very happy that Pennsylvania American Water is taking responsibility to look into this further and they've listened to the people's voices who have expressed concern," Pickford said.

Pennsylvania American spokeswoman Joi Corrado said the delay will allow the company to communicate better to the public the benefits of the disinfectant. The company has not yet decided how long the delay will last, she said.

Company officials have said chloramine is safe, will help the company meet future drinking water standards and will reduce the taste and odor of chlorine in the water.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has approved Pennsylvania American Water's plan to use chloramine on the West Shore. The company already uses it in six of its other systems around the state without customer complaints, Corrado said.

The Public Utilities Commission has received 23 formal complaints opposing the introduction of chloramine in the West Shore water system, spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said. A hearing on the subject will be scheduled before an administrative law judge, she said.

"We were not required to delay by any of the agencies. It was a company decision," Corrado said.



The Working Waterfront Web Edition, Maine
July 2007

Craig Idlebrook

Increasingly-Popular Water Disinfectant Raises Concerns

In order to meet EPA water safety guidelines, North Haven recently constructed an ultra-modern water treatment plant that cost the island's ratepayers $2.2 million. But shortly afterwards, the EPA tightened regulations to lower the allowable level of disinfection byproducts in drinking water. North Haven's water didn't pass the new standards.

"It was kind of frustrating," said Glen Marquis, North Haven's water district superintendent.

Marquis had company. The new regulations sent water utilities and municipalities scrambling for ways cut chlorine use to lower byproduct levels. Disinfection byproducts are chemical compounds created when chlorine mixes with organic materials in water; scientists worry these byproducts are possible carcinogens.

Like many others, North Haven water officials elected to solve the problem by adding chloramine, a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, to their water. Not only did byproduct levels drop well below EPA's safety limits because of the decreased chlorine use, Marquis said, but customers found the water tasted better.

"I've been passing it off as the golden treatment," he said.

But that treatment might come with a price. A small but vocal group of activists throughout the country argue that chloramine-treated drinking water is responsible for a host of medical woes, including asthma, intestinal bleeding and rashes. Some water treatment experts have found that chloramine use has resulted in increased lead levels in some water systems and the creation of even more toxic disinfection byproducts.

Chloramine use is not new, but its use as a primary disinfectant has been on the rise. Water municipalities find it the cheapest and quickest way to lower their byproduct count and meet EPA requirements.

It's estimated that one-third of all U.S municipal water systems use chloramine. Maine state health statistics show 13 Maine water districts currently use chloramine; officials say that number is expected to rise. On the coast, the list includes Bath, Boothbay Harbor, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, North Haven, Portland and Wells. Damariscotta's Great Salt Bay Sanitary District is expected to chloraminate soon.

While some municipalities, like Portland, have been using chloramine for decades, many others have just begun to treat with it. As more municipalities switch over, complaints nationwide about medical ailments from exposure to chloramine-treated water have increased.

But avoiding the water is difficult and expensive. Unlike chlorine, chloramine can't be boiled off and doesn't dissipate, and the only way to block it is to install a filtration system that may cost more than a hundred thousand dollars to install and several thousand dollars a year to maintain, according to Denise Johnson-Kula, president of a group calling itself Citizens Concerned Against Chloramine.

Medical studies on chloramine exposure won't be undertaken until more chloramine-sensitivity reactions are reported by doctors, Johnson-Kula said, but many doctors won't believe patients who complain of chloramine side-effects. To complicate matters, she said, most people suffering from chloramine reactions might not realize they are getting sick from the water.

Some scientists and water experts are beginning to question chloramine use. Dr. Mark Edwards, a civil engineering professor and expert on water piping at Virginia Tech, has found that complaints from water-system clients serve as a sort of canary in the coal mine, providing the first indication that something is wrong.

"You ignore these [complaints] at your own peril," Edwards said.

In Washington, D.C., he and other researchers discovered that chlorine had an unknown benefit of keeping years of built-up lead particles on water pipes, even in supposedly "non-lead" piping like brass. Once the city switched to chloramine, however, lead flushed from the pipes and ended up in the water supply. The resulting lead levels were more than 3800 times higher than the legal U.S. safety limit.

So far, Edwards said, lead level problems from chloramine use have been rare.

Ironically, the EPA byproducts guidelines that started the push toward chloramination might be creating a new kind of byproduct problem.

Dr. Michael J. Plewa, a genetic toxicologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, said there's still so much unknown about chlorine, let alone chloramine.

"We really are ignorant of the toxicology," Plewa said.

But when switching to chloramine, the percentage of identified byproducts shoots down to the teens. "You increase the level of ignorance," Plewa said. "The federal agencies have dropped the ball on funding this kind of work," Plewa said.

Both Edwards and Plewa emphasized that widespread water disinfectant is one of the greatest scientific and engineering feats in human history, resulting in a marked lifespan increase. But both worry the EPA has created more problems than it's solved by regulating chlorine-created byproducts.

Repeated requests for an interview with EPA officials for this story went unanswered.

Carlton Gardner, compliance and enforcement team leader of the Maine State Drinking Water Program, said the state has no choice but to follow EPA rules. If the EPA allows chloramine as a water disinfectant, the state will continue to, as well.

"We look at it as one of the tools in the toolbox," Gardner said.

-- July 2007


 
 
好了av_免费a毛片_久久水蜜桃网国产免费网