Town Square

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.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 28, 2007, 12:00 AM


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Posted by Ellen Powell
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Oct 2, 2007 at 5:24 pm

THANK YOU, dear editor for this wonderful opinion! Finally, an opinion that makes sense! I couldn't agree with you more! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

People Concerned About Chloramine (PCAC) in VT and CCAC in California are working hard to not only fight the good fight on the local front, but we also help people suffering from chloraminated water in other states deal with this horrific situation. As the the contact person locally, I have personally heard over 200 heart breaking stories from people who were suffering alone from chloraminated water in the Champlain Water District. These people all thought they were the only ones until they talked with me and found out they were in good company.

This is all because our public agencies have failed us. To add insult to injury, once we brought this issue up to them, all we have heard back is that chloramine is safe, and there's nothing to worry about. They will not do a legitimate study of the health effects. So far. We feel so betrayed by their violation of the public trust! These agencies are supposed protect us and we find ourselves fighting them for dear life! Unbelievable!

Editorials like yours give us hope all over the country, and for that we are very very grateful. What would we do without our free press???


Ellen Powell
People Concerned About Chloramine

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Posted by Barbara Kyser
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2007 at 7:40 pm

I applaud the opinion piece on chloramine in our drinking water and hope it reaches a lot of people who are unaware of this threat to our health. We know so little about the health effects of chloramine, but do know that chlorine is a much better disenfectant, especially for e-coli. Our pristine water now has to be avoided by people who have reactions to chloramine. What a shame! I wonder if I should stop swimming in the indoor pool at the YMCA. I wonder how long the fish in our backyard pond will survive in chloraminated water. I wonder if the switch I made to bottled spring water will make any difference if I still swim, shower and breathe vapors of chloraminated water. The only answer is to switch back to chlorine until studies show that chloramine is a safe disenfectant. If you want more evidence of the harmful effects of chloramine, visit the website

Barbara Kyser
Los Altos

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Posted by Gregory
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Thank you so much for your well-considered editorial. It is great to know that there are people who take this issue seriously and want to get this untested, unhealthy disinfectant out of our pristine Hetch-Hetchy water system. It boggles the mind to think that our public agencies will take no action, even after hundreds of people have shown serious evidence of chloramine's harmful effects. And this does not include all of those people who are affected, by this, who do not even know about chloramine yet. It could number in the many thousands. I, personally, have family members who are affected by chloramine and I see first-hand the damage this chemical can do. We must prepare and cook all of our food in bottled spring water only drink beverages made with bottled spring water, brush our teeth and bathe in only bottled spring water. To top it all off I have to take my wife two hours out of town, once a week, so that she can get a shower and do our laundry. The expense is incredible! but it is better than paying medical bills and watching a loved-ones health deteriate anyway. When we do these all of these things my family is safe and symptom free. But who wants to live this way. In conclusion, if these symptoms were happening to the family members of the SFPUC or health department officials or EPA people I bet you that they would be moving very quickly to get this pestilence out of our water!

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Posted by Marshall Loring, San Mateo
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:05 pm

I congratulate you on a concise, well stated presentation about the risks attendant to the ill conceived change in the area's water treatment chemistry and the denial mode that responsible agencies have adopted. All would do well to follow the advice of David Ozonoff, Professor of Environmental Health, Chair Emeritus, Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health – “In any event, health complaints from water users attendant upon any treatment change are a red flag and need attention.” (4/11/07 letter to Ellen Powell) For those charged with protecting the health of the public, to do less than respond promptly is tantamount to dereliction of duty.

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Posted by Denise Johnson-Kula
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Thank you for your powerful editorial on chloramine. Citizens Concerned About Chloramine(CCAC) has been extremely concerned that our public agencies, like the EPA and our health departments, have shown little interest in the devastating health effects reported by many who are exposed to chloraminated water. CCAC has heard not only from hundreds of people on the Hetch Hetchy water system but also from many people in other water districts that use chloramine. These include East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD), Marin Municipal Water District, Santa Clara Valley Water District, & San Jose Water Company in the greater bay area. CCAC has even received reports from southern California where chloramine has been used for about 20 years. Accounts of these same health effects, skin, respiratory and digestive are now coming in from over 20 states where chloramine is being introduced. When will our public agencies take notice and do something? Bruce Macler from the EPA's San Francisco office claims "medical folks have to start saying this is an issue." Doctors have no skin, respiratory or digestive studies (that include food exposure) or even any epidemiologic studies on chloramine. Therefore, most doctors are unable to make a link between the symptoms people are having and chloraminated water. Doctors are required to report infectious disease outbreaks or known contamination problems to the CDC. However in this case how can they report a problem which no scientific research documents? In May of this year Rep. Anna Eshoo's office requested a Congressional Research Service investigation of any existing studies on the health effects of chloramine - specifically, skin, respiratory, digestive and epidemiologic studies. They spent several months and found that there were no such studies. This confirms what CCAC found over three and a half years ago. The NCCWD & BAWSCA Water Boards, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin's office, and the SFPUC had also searched for studies and found none. Action on this issue is long overdue. Some people's health effects are serious and life threatening. The hardships endured by those who cannot use their water are extreme. Since our public agencies have failed us, our legislators must exert their oversight to have chloramine removed from our water while the necessary studies are done.

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Posted by Darlene Nappi
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2007 at 11:29 pm

Your Editotial, "It is time to test chloramine" published September 28th is so right on. Those of us who are affected by chloramine in our tap water know what happens if we use chloraminated water.

I haave severe digestive tract problems. My symptoms: 1)extreme belly bloat 2)complete loss of energy 3)diarrhea 4)excruciating pain.

These digestive problems started shortly after chloramine was added to the Hetch Hetchy water supply where we live in Sunnyvale. After thorough testing and research through March 2006, My doctors found no cause for my above symptoms. In April 2006, I was doubling over with pain every time I drank tap water. I decided to try BOTTLED SPRING WATER. With the very first glass I dramk I HAD NO PAIN.

I noticed in late 2006 that I had pain and bloating if I ate out, used certain canned or processed foods and in early 2007 even a medication. I discovered I was ingesting chloramine, not only by how my body was reacting but also, by calling the companies who manufactured the products and then cities where the products were processed to ask about the disinfectant they used. All but two products contained chloraminated water. After I eliminated my exposure to chloramine in my food and medication I recovered from all but the belly bloat, which is improving slowly.

I am so grateful for the coverage the Mountain View Voice has given to chloramine - MOST OF ALL, your forthright opinion and for calling our government agencies to task for allowing such negligence and irresponsibility regarding this entire issue.

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Posted by Jacqueline Kehl
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2007 at 12:21 am

Thank you for writing a powerful and concise editorial on chloramine. I agree that it time to remove chloramine from our water supply before any more problems develop. We know nothing about this chemical! Why is it in our water supply??? Does the EPA and SFPUC think we are rats to experiment on???

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Posted by Linda Corwin
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2007 at 8:22 am

I agree with all of the comments above. Thank you for doing your homework and realizing the negligent manner in which chloramine was selected. Water providers and health departments are following along like sheep, without doing any of their own background research, just because the EPA says chloramine is safe.
Now that more research is showing that there is more danger to our health from the by-products of chloramine than there is from chlorine, it's time for the SFPUC, SF Dept of Public Health, and the Federal EPA to acknowledge their mistake and stop the use of chloramine now.
Everyone who reads your editorial should write to their US Congressional Representative and to Senators Boxer and Feinstein to ask them to address this issue.

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Posted by George Popaduk
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2007 at 1:03 pm

I am so grateful that you chose to write about this issue. I have suffered from a very painful and persistent skin rash that I have traced to chloramine in the tap water of Los Altos and Palo Alto. I had to discontinue a water exercise/fitness class at the Palo Alto YMCA because of the rash which resulted from hour-long immersion in the swimming pool. The condition was exacerbated by my using the spa pool (also indoors), which gave me my first clue that pool water was the source of my rash.
I am free of symptoms now that I joined a health club in Los Gatos, where I have tested the water and found it to be free of ammonia, the problematic component of chloramine. I can once again take unrestricted showers and use the spa pool in this health club.
Also, I take my laundry to a laundromat in Los Gatos to reduce contact with my skin from residues of chloraminated water on my laundered clothing.
I would be very happy to see chloramine out of our local tap water, and I am actively searching out cities outside of Santa Clara County to which I may relocate.

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Posted by Jason Martorano
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2007 at 4:49 pm

Its about time that someone put together a common sense article about this issue. I really think that more people are suffering from chloramine exposure but just assume its idiopathic and go to their doctor. The doctor just gives them a cream or a pill or something for these symptoms not knowing the root cause.

I experience major digestive issues after drinking Bay Area tap water filtered or not and skin rashes from showering. It makes life less enjoyable when you are having health issues and no one believes that there is a valid cause or cares enough to listen to reason.

Its a toxic world that we have created and chloramine seems to be one of the nastiest things we have done to our water supply to date. At least we could remove chlorine from the tap water at our homes, which chloramine is so persistant no filtering or distillation method will work. I just want to chose what happens to my body...dont we all?

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Posted by christine
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2007 at 5:57 pm

I am so impressed by this progressive community publication! Mountain View should be proud. I live just out side your area, I have a son attending Gunn HS and I would like to see more coverage of this issue. This is a matter that needs immediate attention, and the public, is paying the price while the EPA is using us, especially babies, the elderly and disabled as their lab rats. Our entire family has been having serious health effects from the chloramine, and the bacteria that it isn't cleaning out of the water, ever since it came into our beautiful Hetch hetchy water ( I never drink, cook or bath in this stuff any more nor does anyone in my family. We use bottled spring water or water we get from the O'conner water district that uses chlorine, this an incredible hardship, however over the last 11 months that we have been away from chloramine our health has improved dramatically). My son and I had the most symptoms including skin rashes, GI proplems, eye irratation and infections, cronic cough and we both "developed" ashma. We developed irritable bowel problems, and little by little we became very ill. Our rashes were moving all over our bodies, it was terrible. I never thought about chloramine, until I remembered a dermatologist a couple years ago asking about the water. I got online and found out about chloramine and the dates matched to when all of our problems started. Now, everyone in our family hasn't had the same degree of reaction, but everyone has had something. Over the last 3-4 yrs each one of us has has pneumonia at least 2 times, my son and I have been left with perminant broncial problems. This is very nasy stuff. If it is killing fish right away, it can't be good for any long term expose to our mucose membranes, these are very delicate tissues and every time we go into the shower we are breathing this stuff into our lungs. Everyone should see what it does to your plumbing. I own a relatively new home, 7yrs old, 2yrs ago by hotwater heater pipes completly rotted out. This is also because the chloramine is so corrosive to metal. Once again, what is it doing to our pipes in our bodies, and does the EPA and the SFPUC seem to really care? If they did they would have TESTED CHLORAMINE FIRST BEFORE FEEDING IT TO HUMANS!!!!!!!!

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Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2007 at 7:55 pm

First of all, thanks to the editoral staff for writing this article. It is a shame that the Chronicle and the Mercury News are not running this story as well, considering how it effects the readership population from the North Bay to the South and several areas in the East Bay.

At first I didn't know what chloramine was, then I discovered that it is a combonation of chlorine and ammonia. Well Hello, for decades you use to call it AMMONIA CHLORIDE, I guess they thought that giving it a different name would change the toxicity of the compound. Well, it DOESN'T. I was outraged that they (the EPA and the SFPUC) so called scientist and protectores of one of our most important natural resources, would use one of the most toxic and corrosive compounds to disinfect our water. First of all, ammonia is used in horticulture to promote plant growth, it inhances botanicles, it doesn't kill them, so how they find this to be effective is beyond me.

My college degree required that I take numerous science classes and one thing that we learned in science was to NEVER mix these two compounds. If they were mixed in liquid form it would immediately turn into a toxic gas that would cause damage to vital organs, with prolonged exposure causing permanate damage and over-exposure through inhalation or ingestion could result in DEATH.

One other thing that they teach you is to not mix it with water, in case of a spill you are suppose to use a dry absorbant to clean it up, not to mention that you should be using a hazmat suit in the process.

It is known to dissolve copper, zinc, aluminum and it's alloys, severly corrosive to brass, bronze, lead and galvanized surfaces. Most of which, transport water into our homes and we are ingesting it everytime we drink the tap water.

Since Mayor Gavin Newsome is asking for resignations from appointees, I hope that June Weintraub is at the top of that list. If you don't know her she is head of the SFPUC and has not been truthful in her comments about chloramine, saying that it can be filtered and that it will disapate, it can't and it doesn't. This is a fact.

I too, have had upper respitory problems that affects me as if I have chronic allergies, which I do not. I will not bathe with, cook with or drink the water from my tap. I use bottled spring water and well water for these everyday tasks and am healthier for it.

Finally, if you are HIV/AIDS positive, have a otherwise weakened immune system, are fighting cancer, are elderly, a child or disabled, DO NOT DRINK the WATER, drink bottled spring water. This is a direct quote from a neighboring peninsula water district annual report.

Be sure to contact your Federal Representatives to get this TOXIN out of our water. Most of the State Reps could care less as they have proven by recent lack of action. Most of which have been the San Francisco group of legislatures. With exception to Carol Migden who co wrote a bill with Ira Ruskin, that Mark Leno killed with a vote of no confidence.

It is a fundamental right in this country to have safe drinking water and it is the responsibility of the Public Utilities, the Water Districts, the EPA and the CDC to ensure that we do. This is a right for all Americans, not just a select few.

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Posted by FogCityGirl
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2007 at 8:19 pm

Thank you to the editors at the MV Voice for printing this piece!!! I became aware of chloramine in our water last year when I and my family members caught terrible colds that wouldn't go away. I also had nasty, itchy skin rashes and dry eyes. I found out that if I cut out the Chloraminated water and switch to using bottled spring water for everything I do, I don't get sick-and my skin rashes are gone. Hmmm....
As far as the EPA reps comments about it being necessary for medical folks to report a problem: it took me three years to learn about Chloramines in the water, and I live with a homeowner (I am a student renter). Neither the EPA or my local water districts sent out notices with our bills, put an ad in the paper-nothing. If they aren't going to tell regular folks this is going in the water, I seriously doubt they're telling "medical folks" about it...
It has been stated before that Chloramine is a poor disinfectant, and that certain populations should not use this information getting to those people? And, if it is, it's all fine and dandy for them, but I just had major jaw surgery, and I am afraid that if I use ANYTHING with Chloramine in it, it won't help kill germs, I will get sick, and it will hinder my recovery.
What actually scares me the most is that Chloramine is linked to increased levels of lead in our water. Well, we know for sure that lead is most definitly toxic, and this is water that is going to children, to pregnant women, to people like me with neurological disorders. THAT scares me.
It is shameful that our politicans are not doing more about this serious issue-we need to hold them accountable TODAY. I personally wrote a letter to my House Rep, whose office was very responisive. It is suspicious to me that the EPA is in denial mode-another breakdown of the Bush democracy, as the EPA chiefs are appointed by the President, and local PUC/Water Board members, appointed by local government officals (one person mentioned Gavin Newsom-that's exactly right. And HE'S up for re-election. Psst, Mr. Mayor, I got a tip for you!!!)

Thank you again!

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Posted by Dyann Bingham
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 7, 2007 at 2:19 am

As a twenty-year resident of Mountain View, I am very pleased to see our local paper take a stand on this issue, and thank the editors for doing so.
There is no question that people are suffering as a result of chloramine exposure. There is most definitely question as to whether this suffering is in any way contributing to the "greater good", or that it is necessary at all. It is certainly clear that the decision to make this change was made by persons that are completely unaccountable to those affected. Did anyone in Mountain View, or Menlo Park, or Pacifica, or even the city of San Francisco, have the opportunity to vote for the members of the SFPUC? Their actions affect millions of people. Throwing it back on the EPA - who have much to answer for, to be sure - is no excuse. The SFPUC should have been the very first to demand thorough testing of the chloramine protocol as a condition of implementation. The fact that they did not, and still maintain that they were justified in failing to do so, in spite of the mounting evidence of danger to public health, to the environment, even to infrastructure, is reprehensible.
Again, kudos to the editors of the Mountain View Voice. You have again demonstrated why a free press is absolutely indispensible: because you speak for those without the power to speak for themselves.

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Posted by Eric Armstrong
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 8, 2007 at 3:31 pm

Thank you for a thoughtful writeup that actually displays some sense. It is abhorent to me that public officials we pay have put a substance into our drinking water, having done precisely zero studies on the subject. Then they have the temerity to claim that "there is no proof" that chloramine causes harm! Of course there is no proof. They haven't done any studies! They then dismiss anecdotal evidence out of hand (the only evidence there is, in the absence of studies).

So according to them, a failure to look and a failure to listen constitutes "lack of proof of harm". But we pay these people. They should be held to a higher standard: Proof of safety. Why aren't they? How is that they are allowed to recklessly endanger the health of an entire region?

Finally, there is abundant proof that chloramine kills fish. Go to any aquarium store. They'll tell you how to take chloramine out of the water, and why it's necessary to do so. So why in the hell are we dumping a known fish poison into the water supply? Do we think our oceans have too many fish???

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Posted by Denise Johnson-Kula
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2007 at 5:53 pm

I would like to address Eric Armstrong's comment about chloramine's toxicity to fish. While fish owners can treat their aquariums with chemicals that break chloramine down into less toxic substances so that it does not kill the fish right away, ther lives are still shortened. Some varieties like beta fish are affected not only by the chloramine but by the ammonia (one of the breakdown products) as well. Because treating aquariums with chemicals or filtration is difficult and gives unsatisfactory results, I keep my fish in tanks filled with bottled spring water. Chloraminated water from sprinklers, washing cars or broken water mains is entering the bay through untreated storm drains. When chlorine was the disinfectant in the water this was not a problem since chlorine dissipates quickly. Chloramine persists a long time in the water, is used at a much higher dose and is more toxic in general than chlorine. Water main breaks have already wiped out fish, frogs and other amphibians in creek areas in Marin and the East Bay where chloramine is used. Some species of aquatic life are more sensitive to chloramine than others. Therefore chloramine poses a threat to biological diversity and the environment in general. No doubt it is already affecting aquatic life in the bay.

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Posted by Robert Helwing
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2007 at 2:30 am

Kudos to the Mountain View Voice for its editoral regarding the testing of chloramine before forcing its use in our municipal water supplies as a disinfectant. The EPA forced this change upon our local water districts out of concern over certain disinfectant byproducts that stem from the use of chlorine. Unfortunately, the agency did not bother to conduct a thorough study on the use of chloramine as a disinfectant for municipal water supplies and problems are beginning to show up as its use is being forced upon us. As the saying goes: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

I am a chemist with concerns about the use of chloramine in the municipal water supply as a replacement disinfectant for chlorine. I read about the switch to chloramine in my local newspaper, the Sunnyvale Sun, over three years ago and wasn't too happy about it as I anticipated unforeseen problems. Several months later, some neighbors asked me if I was experiencing any problems since the switch to chloramine as they were suffering from intense itching when taking a shower. Although I had not experienced any problems myself, I began to investigate the issue and found that indeed there were a number of individuals suffering from various symptoms and that there were other problems arising as well including those that can affect our household plumbing and so forth. I wasn't surprised.

The challenges regarding water chemistry are amazingly complex and numerous due to the unique properties of water as both a solvent and as a reactive compound. While there are some individuals who seek to discredit those who are experiencing various symptoms or those who are conducting research into the matter, I feel that they are pathetically misguided and ignorant of the real potential for problems due to the complexity of water chemistry. In addition, there has been a surprising lack of research into the potential health effects and environmental hazards of using chloramine as a disinfectant. Certainly this should have been done prior to the EPA's forced switch from chlorine to chloramine.

To date there has been growing evidence of serious health and environmental problems associated with the use of chloramine. Health problems appear to encompass three major areas that include skin reactions, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal symptoms with varying degrees of seriousness for some victims including those that are life-threatening. Environmental problems stemming from the use of chloramine as a disinfectant are becoming evident with signs of severe corrosion in copper pipes and lead leaching from old solder joints that threaten us with lead poisoning. Dr. Michael Plewa, of the University of Illinois, has been investigating the toxicity of chloramine and its disinfectant byproducts and has found that there is a significant increase in the toxicity of these compounds relative to those derived from chlorine used alone as a disinfectant. Dr. Marc Edwards, from Virginia Tech, has been studying the effects of chloramine versus that of chlorine on our plumbing systems and has found serious corrosion taking place along with lead leaching into the water due to chloramine whereas chlorine by itself does not promote these effects. These research results should spur further research into the question of the safety of using chloramine as a disinfectant BEFORE we are forced to use it in our municipal water supplies. To refuse to carry out health and environmental studies before the implementation of a new disinfection protocol is highly irresponsible at the very least, and potentially criminal in conduct should the seriousness of the results obtained so far be verified. In the meantime, it would be highly prudent to halt the forced utilization of chloramine as a disinfectant at the present time, and in fact go back to using chlorine by itself, until a proper and thorough investigation has been done on chloramine.

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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 Jan Frederiksen
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2007 at 4:25 pm

Dear TheOtherSideOfTheStory, my husband and I both suffer symptoms from chloraminated water. He has respiratory and digestive irritation when exposed, and I experience skin and respiratory problems. I have always been very healthy and neither of us have any symptoms when using spring water or chlorinated tap water. I attended both the Oct.31/06 and the Nov.14/06 meetings with the SFPUC, EPA and Public Health Dept. officials that you mention above.(By the way I think you meant Bruce Macler from the EPA, not Bruce McGurk.) The SFPUC commissioners had requested a "Study of Studies" from staff members at their July 25/06 meeting. This was in response to a large number of complaints by water users who had skin, respiratory and digestive reactions to chloramine. These people had seen their doctors who were unable to properly diagnose or treat them because there is no medical information on chloraminated water. There are no epidemiologic studies, no skin, respiratory or digestive (including food exposure) studies, and only inadequate cancer studies. The commissioners wanted to verify for themselves this lack of studies before taking further action.(This had already been done before by the NCCWD and BAWSCA water boards and assemblyman Ira Ruskin's office.) Those of us suffering symptoms waited and hoped while three (more) months dragged on. Finally on Oct.31/06 we met to hear the results of the "Study of Studies" at Andrew DeGraca's SFPUC offices in Burlingame. Mr. DeGraca, Ms. Weintraub and the other officials would not admit the fact that (after reviewing so many authoritative resources, as you pointed out in your long list) there indeed were no studies on the very symptoms we were having. Instead they turned the meeting into another tired old lecture on the history and use of chloramine. There were one or two points of note however. Ms. Weintraub, the epidemiologist for the S.F. Dept. of Public Health, claimed that there was no water vapor created during showering and thus no respiratory exposure to chloraminated water! In my eyes her credibility is in serious question. Later on, SFPUC chemist Andrzej Wilczak, reported on a test he performed in his own shower that demonstrated a loss of about 8% of the chloramine from the water in only 5 min. of showering. He also stated that chloramine can be boiled out of water in 20 min. This shows of course, that chloramine can be released into the air to be inhaled. Members of the public explained to the officials how they had demonstrated cause snd effect between their symptoms and chloraminated water. They told officials that they had inslalled expensive filters that were supposed to remove chloramine that when tested were found to be ineffective. They had tried vitamin C removal methods and yes - even squeezing lemons to neutralize chloramine, without satisfactory results. The only thing that offered complete relief from symptoms was avoidance of chloraminated water. We were very disappointed on Nov.14 to see that none of our input from the earlier "helpful and productive" meeting had even been considered. Mr. DeGraca and Ms. Weintraub just told the same old chloramine is great story. They never mentioned the lack of studies. Mr. Wilczac's findings were curiously missing as well. They even had the nerve to say that since there was "no evidence" in the scientific or medical literature linking chloramine to skin, respiratory or digestive problems, there was no reason for concern! The hundreds (and probably many many more) of us who are seriously harmed and cannot use our tap water, can be dismissed because we do not represent a "population effect"! Without studies how do they know we don't? Ms. Weintraub approved the safety of chloramine (without adequate studies) for the SFPUC in the first place as their contractor. All the experts you cite had a hand in the descision to use chloramine. That includes the EPA. These people can hardly be considered to be independent. Mr. Sklar's question about undue influence on the staff's conclusions is ridiculous. Why would they need any arm twisting to defend their own actions? It looks to me like the fox gaurding the henhouse claiming no chickens were harmed. On top of it all $100,000 of taxpayers' money was wasted on a whitewash. Daniel DeBolt did a great job investigating this issue and the editors of the Mountain View Voice looked at both sides of the story long and hard before writing their gutsy editorial. We are so grateful!

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Posted by Susan Hong, Mountain View Voice Reporter
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Rep. Anna Eshoo to hold
'Town Hall' meeting Saturday



Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, will hold a "Town Hall" meeting Saturday, Oct. 13, in Redwood City.

The meeting will be held from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors' Chambers in the Hall of Justice & Records, 400 County Center (corner of Hamilton Avenue and Bradford Street).

She will discuss her work on the House Intelligence Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee, her spokesperson said. Among the topics: health care coverage for low-income children, making college more affordable, achieving energy independence, combating global warming, American competitiveness, and the war in Iraq.

All constituents are invited to attend, share their concerns, and ask questions, the spokesperson said.

The location is wheelchair-accessible and has parking. For more information, including assistance with directions, go to Rep. Eshoo's Web site at or call a district office at (650) 323-2984, (831) 335-2020 or (408) 245-2339.

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Posted by Denise Johnson-Kula
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2007 at 8:37 pm

To: TheOtherSideOfTheStory, AKA Paul Harvey & (all of your other names).

Please see the video of the 11/14/06 SFPUC meeting. Mr. Adam Werbach was the only commissioner who really held the SFPUC and SFDPH staff accountable following their presentations. He asked the right questions (ie. about respiratory exposure to chloramine in a
shower). He was the only one who seemed to be interested in hearing from the public. He thanked the members of the public for taking time away from work (six hours for most of us - and without pay) to represent this issue. Mr. Werbach graciously acknowledged that it is usually the people who are suffering the most harm who are the ones that have to work for change. He asked for follow-up on the lead issue and on whether information could be obtained from clinicians about increases in rashes and other symptoms. The great question of how the precautionary principle was being followed - when the burden of proof seemed to be on the public in the case of chloramine - was asked by him. He wanted to see more study on chloramine as well as the development of alternatives. Finally, he said that the SFPUC was hearing from "the cutting edge of the cutting edge" in regard to those of us who brought this issue forward. He predicted that this would become a bigger topic across the country. Thank you Mr. Werbach!

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Posted by Gregg Jackson
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2007 at 2:45 pm


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

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 ( and any efforts involving the resolution of the chloramine issues.

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Posted by Hans
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2007 at 2:44 am

I am so glad the issue of chloramine in our water has been brought up. I get a very irritating rash on my legs when I shave them at home in milpitas. However, when I am in sacramento at my sisters place I never get a rash on my legs when I shave there. I have also noticed I get ingrown hairs when I shave in milpitas. I have contacted doctors about this and I am told to use lotions or creams for the itch. The root of the problem is not looked into. The itch on my legs is so intense that I am looking into other expensive methods of hair removal on my legs. Please get chloramine out of our water!

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Posted by MrsJ
a resident of Whisman Station
on Oct 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Is Chloramine still in our water? Please continue to bring awareness until it's removed!!

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Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2015 at 9:05 pm

Some disinfectant is needed for drinking water delivered through water ways and pipes. What we do not need at all is additional fluoride. Look it up.