Chloramine. There’s a small but vocal group of city residents fighting to prevent Rutland from switching its water disinfectant from chlorine to chloramine (a compound of chlorine and ammonia). They have an active Facebook presence. I can’t remember if it’s an open or closed group right now (its status has moved back and forth), but if you went there and asked nicely, I’m sure they would let you in. They are trying to get the aldermen to a) reject a chloramine system and/or b) put a carbon filtration system on the ballot.
The background, in five points:
1) The EPA tracks haloacetic acid levels in water, among many other potential health risks.
2) Haloacetic acids are created when free chlorine reacts with organic material (think decomposing leaves, deer poop, etc., etc.), and Rutland’s are stubbornly higher than allowed.
3) The city considered two main methods of getting its haloacetic acid levels under EPA-mandated levels: Carbon filtration and chloramine, choosing the latter because it would be orders of magnitude less expensive, based on a study from Otter Creek Engineering.
4) The EPA doesn’t track some byproducts of chloramine reactions in water, including haloacetonitriles, halonitromethanes, haloacetaldehydes and nitrosamines. The link to an article used by the concerned citizens by a scientist name Stuart W. Krasner that discusses the potential dangers of these chemicals (warning: contains science) is here. There are also several articles on the city website, including for the brave of heart, a 447-page statewide study on water systems. Oddly, I can’t find the actual study from Otter Creek anywhere.
5) The Krasner article says the amount and type of byproducts varies by site (makes sense … not every stream has the same naturally occurring organic matter in it). He further states that the order you treat with chloramine, chlorine and filter is important in terms of the number of disinfectant byproducts in the resulting drinking water. You have to read past the abstract to find this information, and I doubt many people on either side have done so.
6) I’m going out on a limb and saying that you won’t get more than half the voters to support a multimillion dollar carbon filter that costs $1.5 million annually to run, in addition to the present sand filter and chlorine treatment when a chloramine system can be set up for $100,000, and I think that’s the consensus of the concerned citizen group, which is trying to find a much cheaper version of the carbon filter system. The problem then becomes how to minimize the creation of the harmful byproducts.
So here’s my open question for the aldermen, Mayor Chris Louras, and Evan Pilachowski:
Did the Otter Creek Engineering study take into account not only using chloramine but testing where in the process to add the chloramine to minimize both the creation of chlorine and chloramine byproducts that are known carcinogens, including testing the various combinations of chloramine, chlorine and the existing sand filter to provide water?
Followup question: If not, why not?
Second followup: If you don’t know the answer to these questions or if the answer to the first question is “no,” should you be voting on a new system?