Monochloramine switch remains unpalatable for some Craig residents | CraigDailyPress.com

Monochloramine switch remains unpalatable for some Craig residents

Craig's water treatment plant is set for upgrades in 2019.
Sasha Nelson/staff

A group of Craig residents aren’t giving up their fight to halt the city’s plans to use monochloramine for treating the city’s ailing water system.

Nadja Rider started the Craig CO Water Discussion on Facebook several months ago and the page has about 150 members. Several residents showed up to the Craig City Council meeting Tuesday, May 14 and joined Rider in voicing their displeasure with the city moving forward on its monochloramine plans.

“We are again here to object to the city of Craig using monochloramine,” Rider said Tuesday, adding she wants the city to test the water thoroughly after installing several upgrades that will reduce the amount of time water sits in the system to see if monochloramine will truly be needed.

The city’s recent water quality plans were set into motion after the Colorado Department of Public Health increased disinfectant residual requirements for water systems, which Craig couldn’t meet in 2016. This led the state to give Craig until 2020 to comply with the new disinfectant rule or face fines of thousands of dollars per day.

Soon after, city officials hired Glenwood Springs-based engineering firm SGM to help the city develop a plan to meet water quality standards without unduly burdening taxpayers with a completely new or revamped water treatment plant. After months of studies and workshops, council members decided a few key upgrades along with treating the city’s water system with monochloramine was the most cost-effective solution to keep the water safe. The project is expected to cost $5.2 million, requiring the city to increase rates to help finance the entire project.

New rates were adopted by a unanimous vote of the Craig City Council on Dec. 11.

Mary Sutton said she moved from Los Angeles and suffers from a weakened immune system.

“I’m looking to retire here,” Sutton said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “But I’m very hesitant to bring dollars to a community where I don’t feel like my health is being taken seriously.”

It isn’t clear what health effects will occur after a switch to monochloramine. Though the risk of adverse health effects is low as long as the city of Craig follows through with a timely treatment plan, the potential for lead leaching and nitrification are two concerns when changes are made to any water system, according to SGM engineer Rick Huggins.

NDMA — a type of nitrosamine — is a carcinogenic chemical and known disinfection by-product of chloramine, which remains when ammonia and nitrogen combine. Nitrosamines are not currently regulated. Regulations are expected in another five to 10 years, when the Environmental Protection Agency reviews rules related to disinfection by-products.

Erin Brockovich, a single mother turned environmental justice celebrity, took notice of Craig’s plans to switch to a monochloramine disinfectant and blasted the city of Craig in a December social media post obtained by the Craig Press.

Brockovich claimed Craig’s recent decision to treat the city’s water system with monochloramine is a bad idea, because some disinfection byproducts from the chemical, including nitrosamines, are many times more toxic than the ones formed by chlorine.

“These nitrosamine (ammonia) compounds will soon be regulated sending you back to the drawing board, but being poisoned in the meantime,” Brockovich wrote in her post. “Chloramine use cause both immediate and long-term health effects, destroys rubber gaskets and O-rings in you appliances and fixtures, plumbing corrosion, nitrification, biofouling, environmental damage, and weaker system security. Don’t be fooled. Many water system across the country that converted have stopped and converted back to free chlorine. As it looks right now, you will be paying more for less quality (dangerous) water quality.”

Kristin Clayburn attended Tuesday’s meeting with her mother and spoke to council about her autoimmune diseases possibly being exacerbated by monochloramine in the water.

“Are you going to be able to tell me if I get sicker that it’s not from the water?” she asked.

Are King said she might not have invested in any Craig real estate had she known the city was switching to monochloramine.

“I probably would not have bought a house here if we had known we’d be switching to monochloramine,” King said.

But some on council are stalwart about monochloramine being the right choice for Craig.  

“There are 327 million people in U.S.,” said Councilman Tony Bohrer. “100 million are on monochloramine.”

Bohrer took the opportunity to apologize to residents angered by what many feel was a lack of communication on the city’s part in regard to the monochloramine switch, but said council took more than a year to come to the monochloramine decision.

“We’ve been talking about this for over a year, but we did make the decision this past April,” Bohrer said.

Resident Vicki Huyser agreed.

“This isn’t new,” Huyser said. “It’s new because some of you…have just learned about it so you’re just now standing up.”

Huyser said other options would have required the city raise taxes.

“Nobody wants their water bill raised 50 bucks a month,” Huyser said.

Newly-elected Mayor Jarrod Ogden told residents Tuesday he wished there were a better option.

“None of this was taken lightly,” Ogden said. “I wish there was an in-between option.”

Ogden said council plans to begin putting more water testing results online.

“I think we’re more than capable of sharing any and all results with you,” Ogden said.

Sasha Nelson contributed to this report. Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.