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It is time to test chloramine
Original post made
on Oct 2, 2007
Amid the recent turmoil over dangerous chemicals in our food and toys, it's amazing to observe the federal government's somewhat lackadaisical reaction to concerns over chloramine, the chemical additive used to treat our tap water.
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posted Friday, September 28, 2007, 12:00 AM
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Posted by TheOtherSideOfTheStory
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2007 at 11:06 pm
In the interest of "fair and balanced," here is the other side of this story - the staff report given to the SF PUC on the chloramine issue last November, which basically found it to be a "non-issue."
(Please note that the Commission supported the staff's findings with one of the Commissioners being Mr. Adam Werbach, who is an environmental activist who founded the Sierra Student Coalition, the United States' largest student-run environmental organization in 1991 and who was subsequently elected as the national president of the Sierra Club in 1996. Thus the mere fact that the anti-chloramine group was not able to convince the former head of one of the world's leading environmental organizations that there was a legitimate problem here with chloramine can be viewed as speaking volumes as to the validity of the claims being made that these isolated cases are somehow due to chloramine.)
8b. Chloramine Report
General Manager Leal presented a brief overview and background related to issues of public interest concerning the use of Chloramines as a disinfectant in the water system. President Sklar noted that this presentation was in response to anecdotal questions and concerns raised by members of the public resulting in the Commissioner's request to staff 10 weeks previously that an expert response be presented to address these issues and concerns. The experts offering responses were identified as Mr. Bruce McGurk from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Ms. Catherine Ma and Mr. David Spath from the California Department of Health Services; Mr. Dean Peterson of the San Mateo Department of Public Health and Ms. June Weintraub from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
The presentation began with information on disinfection. It was reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves disinfections and there are two types, the first to kill pathogens and chlorine is used at all of our facilities. Additionally ozone is used at one treatment plant and there are plans to use UV light at Hetch Hetchy. The available disinfectant choices were identified as chlorine and Chloramine. It was reported that the SFPUC in February 2004, converted to use of chloramines. It was noted that the challenge with disinfection was to provide adequate pathogen kill while minimizing disinfection byproducts. It was reported that chloramines have been around for 90 years and were first used in 1917. Chlorine it was noted has been used since 1908. It was estimated at 29% of community water systems use chloramine and that its use was expected to go up dramatically as a result of new byproduct legislation. A table was presented demonstrating that a lot of utilities in outside of the United States use chloramine - citing Ottawa, Canada, Sydney, Australia, and in Finland. Other American cities using it were identified as Portland, Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, the Metropolitan Water District, and in the Bay Area, Contra Costa. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) was the last in the Bay Area in 2004 to change to the use of chloramines.
It was noted in preparation for this presentation that many resources and health and regulatory authorities were studied as well as the National Library of Medicine's database which includes thousands of journals and extensive EPA material, the California Department of the Health Services, Health Canada, Environment Canada, the World Health Organization, (WHO) and American Water Works Society and its journal and conference database as well as reports of the International Water Association. Staff reported discussions with the American Water Works research staff and reported that they had peer reviewed what staff had prepared on this topic and agreed that the information reported made sense. Additionally, it was noted that staff spoke with 17 other utilities throughout the country providing a broad cross-section of users such as Philadelphia, Water Resources, of Greater Boston and the Washington Aqueduct in D.C., Tampa, Denver, and several other Bay Area users. It was reported that staff had contacted health and water quality experts, preformed internet searches, reviewed the Department's own records and did chloramine loss and removal tests in our laboratory. In preparation for this presentation it was estimated the PUC spent about six months of staff time, $100,000 doing this comprehensive review of chloramine science. In addition staff met with interested stakeholders on October 31, 2006, and had what was believed to be a helpful and productive meeting. The results of this information based upon our data showed that, chloramine is more effective for disinfection in distribution systems. In response to Commissioner's questions it was noted disinfection in the distribution system is required. It was reported that use of liquid chlorine presents a hazard if released and therefore liquid chlorine was phased out in the late 1990's and the distribution system has continued to see excellent results after conversion to chloromines.
Ms. June Weintraub, an epidemiologist representing the San Francisco Department of Public Health, then discussed some of the health concerns that were raised at previous meetings and described why the balance of evidence showed that there was not any reason to be concerned about chloramines use related public health issues at this time. She noted in summary, that there was no evidence in the medical literature linking chloramine to drinking and bathing water to the health concerns raised. She observed that there was always the possibility that individuals have specific sensitivity to chemicals in the environment, but there is no evidence that these health affects are occurring on the population level. Ms. Weintraub noted that the Department of Public Health recommended that people with individual health concerns discuss these with their doctors. She further noted that conditions that people have described can be caused by any number of underlying conditions and even environmental exposures and it was important for people not to focus on one particular explanation for their health problems, as they could something really important. She reported that local physicians have a mechanism to contact the public health agencies if a physician sees something unusual in their practice, then they can discuss it with public health agencies, and any necessary action can be taken.
Commissioner Werbach applauded the presentation, observing that he had learned a lot and noted that the Commissioners were concerned because of the bad history that led to the passage of the precautionary principle in San Francisco. Commissioner Werbach recalled the Romans saying that lead was okay and a farmer telling their workers DDT was harmless. In response to Commissioner Werbach's question about how does this reconcile with the concept of the precautionary principle, the answer was made that it absolutely reconciled and that as the precautionary principle states you have to make decisions on what to do be based on the best available evidence and the availability of alternatives. The number one fact was noted that we have to disinfect in the distribution system, because otherwise, you get cholera, typhoid, and number two there is very strong evidence that chlorine causes disinfection byproducts, which lead to cancer therefore we have an alternative, the alternative is chloramine. It was noted that at this point staff cannot make decisions today on the absence of evidence and based on what is known, chloramine is the right thing. It was noted again that regarding individual health concerns, staff supports any needed additional studies, and should further study show there was a public health issue, action would be taken. The basic point was made that based upon the known physiology and about how chloramine behaves in the environment and how it's dealt with physiologically, there did not seem to be a plausible reason to support preemptive action.
President Sklar asked if there had been any attempt by any member of Commission or by the General Manager to influence the scientific and engineering conclusions in the staff's report and was informed the results reported been completely independent. President Sklar thanked the presenters and the General Manager, finding this presentation to be one of the most intellectually complete presented to the Commission on such a difficult topic.
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Posted by Gregg Jackson
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2007 at 2:45 pm
PLEASE SUPPORT EFFORTS TO REMOVE CHLORAMINE FROM SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA'S DRINKING WATER DUE TO THE TOXIC EFFECTS ON HUMAN, ANIMAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH.
My wife and I, as well as several neighbors in the Forest Hill Extension/West Portal neighborhood, other parts of SF and the Peninsula urgently request all concerned citizens, healthcare providers, and lawmakers to support the removal of CHLORAMINE from the public water sources until studies can prove there is no negative effects to skin, respiratory, and digestive systems in human health. Chloramine, the combination of chlorine and ammonia, has caused hundreds of documented cases of health problems since it was first used by the San Francisco Utilities Commission in February, 2004. Please see articles and pictures on www.chloramine.org.
THE EPA ITSELF STATES THAT THERE ARE NO DERMAL OR INHALENT STUDIES AND THAT THE CANCER STUDIES ARE INADEQUATE. THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE IS ALSO BEREFT OF ANY WELL DONE STUDIES PROVING SAFETY AND EFFECTIVENESS. A staff member from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's office, has initiated a request of information to the Congressional Research Service and their response was that there were no published studies done on disinfection byproduct of chloramine. Therefore we do not know the adverse effects of chloramine, but given the fact that hundreds of people across the country have reported negative health effects PLUS many of us local residents are suffering PLUS the fact that this issue is below the radar of current detection efforts, the actual affect on SF resident's health is probably very great.
The hundreds of reported cases we have personally heard, or are experiencing ourselves, include people experiencing serious and, in some cases, life threatening reactions to it. Some examples include:
• Respiratory/breathing problems, similar to asthma symptoms, even though these people never had asthma before,
• Digestive problems, similar to indigestion, even though not having such problems before,
• Skin rashes, dryness, and itchiness, even though not having such problems before,
• All or most of these symptoms GO AWAY when water NOT CONTAINING CHLORAMINE is used (e.g. bottled spring water or water from another area using chlorine only as the disinfectant)
Chloramine has even been shown to attack the lead solder in plumbing causing this lead to leach into the drinking water. High levels of lead consumption is well known to be toxic to human health, especially in children. The Los Altos water supply is only the most recent to find lead levels out of compliance. What is even more scary is that testing is typically NOT DONE at point of use in our homes and therefore EVEN HIGHER LEAD LEVELS would most likely be found, due to lead solder used in some of the older housing structures and communities.
New research has been published on disinfection byproducts (DBPs) created from the use of chloramine by Dr. Michael Plewa, EPA researcher at the Univ. of Illinois. This research reveals that the new hitherto unknown and unregulated DBPs created by chloramine, when used as a water disinfectant, are many magnitudes more toxic than those created by chlorine. Dr. Plewa recently remarked that, based on his findings, he personally recommended that utilities switch back to the use of chlorine-only for water disinfection because we have traded a 'possible' problem with chlorine's DBPs for a definite and much more serious problem from chloramine's DBPs. He also said that these new chloramine DBPs are in California water supplies as well as in many other water systems throughout the country. He had previously published research on iodoacid DBPs formed by chloramine which were not widespread in occurrence. These new DBPs are much more widespread (nitrosamines, haloacetonitrils, etc).
Some of us from the neighborhood have attended meetings with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and Department of Public Health (DPH), and found their behavior, demeanor and performance quite embarrassing. They commissioned repeated literature searches (and not well done at that), spending $100,000, wasting taxpayers money. They DID NOT return calls or letters requesting meetings with them, DID NOT MEET with local residents, THEN cut many of us off during a public meeting specifically organized to hear out concerned residents.
One or more of our elected leaders is urgently and critically needed to take ownership of this issue and help us. We greatly appreciate attention toward to this, as well as support toward a group called Citizen's Concerned About Chloramine (www.chloramine.org) and any efforts involving the resolution of the chloramine issues.