Silt water supply positive for ‘total trihalomethanes’ |

Silt water supply positive for ‘total trihalomethanes’

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

SILT, Colorado – The town’s water supply has a slight taint to it, according to one official, but it’s nothing residents need to be worried about.

At least, not in the “short term,” said public works director Gerry Pace.

But over the long term, he said, the chemicals could cause health problems, which is why Silt recently sent out a letter warning municipal water users about the situation.

The compound in question is known as “total trihalomethanes,” Pace said, adding that its formation in the water system is known as a “disinfection byproduct.”

It comes about, Pace said, when chlorine comes in contact with organic matter and other sediment within the water system.

The longer the chlorine and the sediments sit together, he said, the greater the production of TTHM, as it is known in water treatment circles. He said that is partly why the town, at the end of every summer, flushes its two-mile water line leading to the Coal Ridge High School, in order to bring fresher water to the taps there.

“In large quantities,” Pace said, the chemicals “could be cancer causing,” and the letter from the town advises residents that they might want to switch to bottled water, or some kind of water-hauling service, until the problem is fixed.

That is not likely to be until late 2011 or possibly early 2012, because the town first must study the situation to come up with possible solutions, and then get state permission to go ahead with whichever solution is identified.

He noted that the state water quality division adds new substances every year to its list of chemicals that must be monitored, and that this particular substance has only been listed for a couple of years.

Pace also said that the town’s water system had not exceeded the standards until this past summer, and he categorically denied that the TTHM problem could have anything to do with the presence of a gas drilling rig on Silt Mesa.

According to Rick Koplitz, a water quality compliance official with the state health department, there are more than 800 community water systems in the state that are required to test for TTHM. Of those, he said, nine systems are currently out of compliance with the TTHM standard, and that all of them are “very small systems.”

One, he said, is owned by Exxon-Mobile in the Piceance Basin, and others include mobile home parks and homeowners’ associations.

Both Koplitz and Pace said it would take prolonged exposure to TTHM’s to develop any serious health problems, although Koplitz said it is not known how long that might be.

He also conceded that TTHM likely had been present in water treatment systems for some time prior to its classification by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as something to be monitored and controlled.

Pace said that, while the letter about the TTHM violation went out a couple of weeks ago, only five residents have called with questions about it.

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