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
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
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.
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.
WATER TREATMENT BALANCING ACT
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
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.
include chloroform---the principal cancer causing agent in the THM group.
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
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.
WATER GREMLIN EMERGES
here is where the gremlin emerges.
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
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
CONSTITUTES A "SIGNIFICANT CANCER RISK" LEVEL
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
"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.
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.
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.
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.
is probably no wonder then that municipal water systems were purposefully
exempted from Proposition 65.
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".
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!!
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!!
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
when the carcinogens are removed at the tap in the home will the consumer
have a carcinogen-free water.