Scattered Across the Nation

March 30, 2004

About the author: Wendi Hope Bishop, [email protected],


I thought I would take a moment to bring you up to speed on some of the contaminants making the news in the last month or so.

It is safe to say that this month’s issue has turned into a focus on contaminants. When researching and writing drinking water news for our website, I, of course, get the scoop on both breaking news and some that is less publicized in the greater media. I thought I would take a moment to bring you up to speed on some of the contaminants making the news in the last month or so.

First up, something positive came out of the White House the other day. I read where the White House has a filtration system to “ensure the quality of water”—a great plug for our industry. However, the downside is that lead levels in Arlington, Va., and Washington, D.C., tested high in many homes. This lead outbreak has served as a good wake up call to anyone in the government that has been “sleeping” on some of these issues. These high lead levels caused residents to file a suit against D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) for not alerting residents to the elevated lead levels originally discovered in 2001. WASA reports that it did in fact alert the city’s health department and customers in 2002. The city has distributed water filters to area residents. Check out page 16 for additional information.

In Aurora, Ill., the Illinois EPA issued a nine-day boil water order after tests showed E. coli in the water. The suspected culprit: Goose feces. A reservoir near the treatment plant where geese tend to flock may have been the cause of the E.coli outbreak. Thankfully, no illnesses were reported. More details are on page 34.

The Western states were not immune either. In Desert Hills, Ariz., testing revealed 12 mg/L of nitrates, exceeding the EPA MCL of 10 mg/L. The Arizona American Water Co. is required by the EPA to give proper notification to its customers about the elevated levels. Claims were made that the water company never sent out the notifications with the billing like it said it would. However, the company reported that the notifications were going out in the next billing cycle. Although limited amounts of bottled water were being offered to customers, the EPA has approved ion exchange, reverse osmosis and electrodialysis technologies for nitrate removal.

I also should bring to your attention to an EPA effort to help prioritize unregulated disinfection byproducts (DBPs) for health effects testing. EPA conducted a study that quantified the occurrence of more than 200 previously unidentified DBPs. The study also showed that disinfectants that lowered the levels of regulated trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids more than chlorine can, in fact, form high levels of “high priority” DBPs, reported the American Water Works Association. These levels could be a health risk. Most public utilities use some form of disinfection including chlorine, ozone, chlorine dioxide and chloramines. A follow-up study is scheduled to begin this year.

With all of these water issues, we can never be completely secure from contamination outbreaks. Dealers should insist on testing customer’s water to nail down any specific traces of contaminants. That brings me to the testing article on page 8 that discusses testing methods for bacteria such as coliform and E. coli.

This should update you on some of the contaminants making rounds across the nation.

Best Wishes

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