Town turns thumbs down on water twice purified
On the day that federal regulations became effective, requiring purer water from the town’s several wells, Hillsboro Beach officials opted to stay the course. Instead of changing from chlorine, which kills germs but produces questionable byproducts, to chloramine, which kills fewer germs but produces different byproducts, they decided on October 1 to tackle problems should they crop up.
The decision came after presentation supporting the switch to chloramine made by the town’s water consultant, James Rabideau, of CH2MHill. The reason for the recommendation: a so-called “Stage 2 Disinfection Byproduct Rule” went into effect on October 1. The rule says that instead of averaging the test results of various sites, each and every site must meet minimal standards or the entire water system fails inspection.
Failure could mean the municipality pays a fine, and there have been occasions when water samples from the town’s Pompano Beach well have not met the minimum standards, Rabideau said. For that reason, he recommended the belts-and-braces approach of introducing secondary disinfection with chloramine.
That recommendation was met with an impassioned rebuttal from attorney Susan Pickford of the Chloramine Information Center in Pennsylvania. and Bob Bowcock, founder of Integrated Resource Management of California.The pair are visiting communities nationwide that are struggling with chloramine issues.
“We have spoken in 15 states together and we have only known each other 18 months, it is …such a national issue,” Bowcock said. “Your water quality is so good…looking at data to 1999. You have no reason to consider this.”
According to Rabideau, project manager on the town’s newly built well, softeni water with lime, then filtering it, and disinfecting it with chlorine produces germ-free water – and several potential carcinogens: trihalomethanes and Halocetic acids.
The EPA and CDC suggest treating it a second time, this time with chloramines – chlorine stabilized with ammonia. The upside is that there is no byproduct. The down side is that chloramines do not disinfect as well as chlorine.
“The EPA and CDC believe the benefits of disinfection out weigh the potential risks of disinfection byproducts,” Rabideau explained, prompting a question from Commissioner Claire Schubert.
“If we stay with chlorine and monitor it, wouldn’t that be fine?” she asked.
But residents relying on research and the Internet strongly opposed the measure. They spoke of damage to pipes and gaskets; and to people in fragile health, of skin rashes and of the adequacy of the current system.
They also talked about how Hillsboro Beach’s size makes it unique and, on Tuesday, they voted it down.
“We just do things a little differently in Hillsboro Beach,” Garcia said.