Dave Wallace: The cost of consent
Reading the Craig Press article from Dec. 28 headlined “Cost of compliance,” I can’t help wondering exactly how many residents are actually aware of the city’s plan for water treatment modifications. The engineered system from SGM will replace the present chlorine treatment with a system that will introduce chloramine into the city’s potable water distribution.
The design modifications will replace the chlorine with a mixture of chlorine and ammonia as the treatment disinfectant. This is not the only modification. The city fresh water distribution network will also undergo numerous modifications, which will add mixers to the holding tanks along with valves, piping, and additional controls. The distribution modifications are practically the same as what would be recommended to bring our current system into compliance and possibly eliminating the need for a chloramine modification. We must ask ourselves, are we using a systematic identification, modification and evaluation process, or are we using the typical CAB’s blanket approach?
Let us look at some concerns that typically accompany a chloramine treatment.
• In reality, chloramine exists as three different forms, or species: monochloramine, dichloramine, and trichloramine. The three species of chloramine constantly and rapidly shift from one form to another. All forms are respiratory irritants, with trichloramine being the most toxic.
• Chloramine does not control the pathogens in water as well as a straight chlorine treatment, thus requiring those with compromised immune systems to boil their drinking water.
• Studies show your exposure to the toxic byproducts of chloramine is much greater while taking a hot shower than drinking the water, for toxic gases will be released, exposing the individual to respiratory health concerns.
• Chloramine will react with certain metals used in water distribution, not only in the city distribution system, but also in homes, releasing harmful metals such as lead into the drinking water, as well as corroding pipes and seals.
The list of health hazards associated with chloramine goes on and on, and many of these issues can be found at, chloramine.org, as well as Science Daily.
Flint, Michigan, was not the only community that experienced tremendous amounts of lead leaching from the water pipes after their water supply was switched to a treatment facility using chloramine. Washington D.C. also experienced elevated amounts of lead in their potable water supply after switching to chloramine, forcing them to switch back after several years. Many municipalities have detected elevated levels of lead after switching their water treatment from chlorine to chloramine and are now forced to add additional corrosion inhibitors to the water supply to reduce the leaching of toxic metals. I, personally, am not very keen on drinking the Kool-Aid.
Unfortunately, humans are not the only species exposed to the harmful effects of chloramine treatment. Water containing chloramine that finds its way into the natural runoff and river drainages has a deadly effect on aquatic life, since chloramine retains its composition long after chlorine would have dissipated.
I am not saying chloramine would not ultimately be necessary to keep our community in compliance. The point I am attempting to make is, knowing that our water storage capacity and some low flow conditions are impacting the residual chlorine values, why have we not previously addressed this issue in a systematic IME approach? Why have we not solicited opinions from additional engineering firms, and why has SGM become the sole provider of information on this project, as well as others? Have we handed over the keys to the city? Is this really the “cost of compliance,” or might it be the price we pay for consent?