California town fights state order to chlorinate drinking water

Officials in charge of the largest unchlorinated drinking water treatment system in California filed legal documents Monday against a state order to chlorinate the water.

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November 29, 2001 -- Under a rarely-used California Safe Drinking Water Act provision, the City of Lodi filed in Superior Court for a writ of mandate to have the court review a state health department compliance order which requires that continuous chlorination be initiated.

The state ordered Lodi water officials to chlorinate after rising numbers of total coliform bacteria were found in samples. In February 1998, the city had positive tests for coliform bacteria in 6.1 percent of its samples, which is over the state limit of 5 percent, according to a report in the Lodi News-Sentinel newspaper. If the Oct. 25 order survives the court challenge, Lodi must comply by Jan. 1.

But the city does not want to chlorinate because of its cost and the taste. They maintain that the water is safe and has not had a bacterial violation since February of 1998.

The Lodi City Council has suggested a compromise involving temporary chlorination for three months, but officials have said they are not sure the state would allow them to stop once they start chlorinating. The city already adds chlorine on an as-needed basis, the Lodi News-Sentinel reported, but full-time chlorination may cost as much as $100,000 per year. Officials also object to continuous chlorination because it might interfere with kidney dialysis machines and would be unsafe for fish tanks.

A hearing likely won't be held until after Jan. 1.

More information on the order is available from the Lodi News-Sentinel web site at

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