While our attention has been focused on the current water shortage---rationing---water rate hikes, the forecasts for rain or the lack of it---for the last 4-5 years---an insidious gremlin has been growing in our collective water attic.

No, that water gremlin is not the possibility of drinking water contamination by cancer causing chemicals released by high technology---nor the toxic waste dumps at Moffett Field(now the subject of extensive Congressional hearings).

Our new water gremlin is really an old gremlin---being resurrected by water treatment procedures(or the lack thereof) at municipal water facilities across the nation.

That gremlin has two names. The first is Trihalomethanes(THM's), a known carcinogen(cancer-causing agent) disinfection by product (or "precursor" as it is known in the water community)caused by the simple act of chlorinating or disinfecting surface water high in bacteria and organic content.

The second name for this new gremlin is biologically-induced illnesses caused by poor or ineffective water treatment procedures.


As the California drought entered its fifth year, more and more drinking water for the Bay Area began coming from surface sources in the Central Valley. To combat the higher than normal bacteria levels found in these surface water sources, local water districts began cranking up the chlorine levels.

Unfortunately, because of the chemical reaction between chlorine and high chloride levels(and organic material) from Central Valley and Sacramento Delta water, the level of THM's began exceeding those established by the EPA (100 parts per billion). One part per billion is equivalent to one gallon of contaminants in one billion gallons of water.

THM's include chloroform---the principal cancer causing agent in the THM group.

As these THM levels in Bay Area water began exceeding the 100 part per billion level, ammonia was added to the water to replace a portion of the chlorine treatment. The result was the chloramine chemical compound which kills your tropical fish and is a disaster for anyone on kidney dialysis.

This is a delicate "balancing act" by the water company---to eliminate widespread disease from bacteria in untreated water---chlorine and ammonia must be added, in some mixture to kill those bacteria---and at the same time keep the THM levels below levels established by the EPA and health professionals as "significant cancer risk" levels.


But here is where the gremlin emerges.

Proposition 65, The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 was designed to inform employees of private businesses with greater than 10 employees whenever they were exposed to carcinogens or "reproductive toxins"(toxics causing birth defects) if the level of exposure exceeded the "significant risk" level.

Interestingly, Proposition 65 made a blanket exemption from warning requirements for all California water agencies. This was in the face of facts such as those provided by the National Cancer Institute(NCI) that found that as many as 27% of certain forms of cancer are associated with the consumption of chlorinated surface water, the most common source of drinking water in California.


The standard in California for what is considered an "acceptable" cancer risk level was set at one additional cancer case per million population. In other words: if drinking water with a "one-in-a-million" cancer risk were consumed by one million people for a lifetime, one additional individual-statistically speaking-would get cancer. That's beyond the three hundred thousand or so who will get cancer from other causes.

This "one-in-a million risk level" is still the level used when the California Department of Health Services determines if a so-called "contaminated ground water" needs to be cleaned up.

For example, the IBM, Fairchild, Moffet Field and other toxic chemical pollution problems needed to be cleaned up at the expense of millions of dollars just to meet the "one in a million" risk level caused by toxic chemical contaminants such as TCE, etc.

Meanwhile, the addition of chlorine to our drinking water is causing(according to NCI studies) a 27% risk of cancer amongst non-smokers compared to non-chlorinated water drinkers.

The level of 100 parts per billion of THMS(chloroform, etc.) corresponded to 526 cancer cases per million population. This was 525 times higher than the "no significant risk" associated with warnings to be issued to industrial workers under Proposition 65.

It is probably no wonder then that municipal water systems were purposefully exempted from Proposition 65.

Proposition 141 on last fall's ballot was designed to rectify this problem and thus require than municipal water systems to notify you, the public, when cancer causing chemicals in tap water exceeded those levels denoted as "significant cancer risk".

Well, as we know now, Proposition 141 failed and the water companies are under no obligation to notify the public when cancer causing chemicals are present in treated tap water at levels which exceed the significant cancer risk level!!

If you don't believe that you are reading---just review Propositions 14 and 65---it's all there in black and white---in very, very small type!!

What's the answer? Well, when you confront the water companies---and they are honest in their answer---they will tell you that they simply cannot maintain the carcinogen concentration below the "significant risk level" for a surface water---which is most of what we are receiving in the South Valley, Almaden, Willow Glen and Cambrian Park areas right now.

Only when the carcinogens are removed at the tap in the home will the consumer have a carcinogen-free water.











































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