Chlorination, disinfectant byproducts scrutinized


 Q: How dangerous are haloacetic acids?

A: Studies suggest disinfection byproducts, such as haloacetic acids, may increase the risk of bladder, colon and rectal cancers. However, from a public health perspective, the risk of not disinfecting drinking water (and exposing people to microbes that can cause gastrointestinal illnesses) far outweighs the risk of the byproducts - particularly at the low levels typically found in U.S. water supplies. When the EPA establishes the maximum contaminant level for a chemical that is known or suspected to cause adverse health effects from long-term exposure, it is based on an average person drinking two liters (about half a gallon) of water daily for 70 years (approximately one lifetime).


Q: What about the health effects on pregnant women?

A: Current reproductive and developmental health effects data does not support a conclusion at this time as to whether exposure to chlorinated drinking water or disinfection byproducts causes adverse developmental or reproductive health effects.


Q: Will a home water filter help remove haloacetic acids?

A: Yes, but boiling water will not. Anyone who is concerned with the levels of byproducts in the water can purchase a home filtration system made with activated carbon to help remove it. The trick, however, is to make sure the filter is clean. Dirty filters can add more contaminants to the water than they take out. Filters also have limitations. A single filter can remove only so many contaminants for their size or design. So, while an added filter may help, it is not guaranteed to remove all of the chemical byproducts from water.


Q: Why does my water smell strongly of chlorine?

A: Tyler puts chorine in the water its two water treatment plants - the Lake Palestine plant on Old Noonday Road and the Golden Road treatment plant. The closer you live to a water plant, the higher chlorine residuals are going to be at your house. As you get farther away from the plant, it decreases. The goal for the city is to keep a state-mandated minimum chlorine residual at the far reaches of the water system.


Q: What are chloramines?

A: Chloramines are disinfectants used to treat drinking water. It's what the city of Tyler uses. Chloramines are most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water. Chloramines have been used by water utilities for almost 90 years and their use is closely regulated. More than one in five Americans uses drinking water treated with chloramines.


Q: Is there anything I can do to minimize the amount of chlorine in the water?

A: Sort of. Chloramines dissipate rather quickly once the water is out of the tap. If you run a glass of water and let it sit out for a few minutes, you will begin to see a reduction in the disinfectant residuals.


Q: Why does my water look blue sometimes?

A: Tyler Water Utilities recently has become aware of two locations experiencing "blue" water. While it is probably related to copper piping at the actual locations, staff has tested the water at both locations and is continuing to investigate at this time.


Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, city of Tyler and The University of Texas at Tyler.



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