WELCOME

  • Charlottesville Tomorrow
    News Center

    The articles on this blog were published during 2005-2012. All of this content has been moved to our new website at www.cvilletomorrow.org
    © 2005-12 Charlottesville Tomorrow
    Our photos have some rights reserved.

Categories

July 19, 2012

Avoiding chloramines in drinking water may boost public confidence in system

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Less than a week away from a major public hearing on water treatment and chloramines, the Albemarle County Service Authority heard from citizens on Thursday both for and against the proposal.

Now at least one of its members has come to the conclusion that avoiding chloramines may help maintain public confidence in the water supply.

20120719-Liao_May
Albemarle County resident May Liao

County resident May Liao started the conversation by encouraging the ACSA to give further scrutiny to the costs of one of the chloramines alternatives, granular activated carbon.

“It really seems like the only reason that people are doing this is for costs,” Liao said about the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s plan to use chloramines. “We have been working with … Integrated Resource Management, which suggests that Hazen & Sawyer’s numbers are greatly inflated.”

Hazen & Sawyer is the lead consultant working for the RWSA and California-based Integrated Resource Management’s Robert W. Bowcock participated in the June safe water symposium hosted by the authority.

“It would be great if we could get a further breakdown of how Hazen & Sawyer came up with those numbers,” Liao added. “Just as when you are remodeling a house, maybe we could get a third-party bid and not just trust this number that they are giving.”

In February, the RWSA approved a $5 million capital project to put chloramines in public water as a secondary disinfectant. Chlorine is and will remain the primary disinfectant. Chloramines was determined to be more cost effective than alternatives like GAC, which was estimated to cost $18.3 million.

RWSA executive director Thomas L. Frederick Jr. says the cost estimate for carbon filtration is based on the urban water treatment plants running 365 days a year at their full treatment capacity.

Chloramines are created by combining chlorine and ammonia and are intended to prevent pathogens from growing within the water distribution system. The RWSA says a new treatment approach is necessary to meet standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Continue reading "Avoiding chloramines in drinking water may boost public confidence in system" »

July 15, 2012

Local officials and residents reflect on chloramines and prepare for public hearing

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, July 15, 2012

In the aftermath of a well-attended symposium in June on alternatives for public drinking water treatment, area officials are preparing to hold a joint meeting to receive public comment from the Charlottesville-Albemarle community.

20120522-galvin
Charlottesville City Councilor Kathy Galvin

The public hearing is being held July 25 in response to concerns about one of the water treatment approaches, the use of chloramines. Since the public became aware of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s March 2011 decision to use chloramines, some concerned residents have advocated for alternatives like carbon filtration.

Now some of the elected officials who will make the final decision say they are looking forward to the public feedback and reaching consensus on changes that must be made to comply with federal mandates.

Balancing public safety with increasing prices is on the minds of local representatives.

“You can say no cost is too high [to ensure safety], but we make those decisions all the time,” Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said. “There’s a point at which you do draw the line and say, ‘Well perhaps the additional cost is not worth the increase in safety.’”

A RWSA consultant, Hazen and Sawyer, estimates the installation of chloramines will initially cost about $5 million with an additional $102,000 per year to operate. The next most-affordable option is granular activated carbon (GAC), which Hazen and Sawyer estimates will have an upfront cost of $18.3 million and cost $983,000 per year to operate.

Chloramines opponents believe the benefits of GAC filtration are worth the additional cost.

“Just because Charlottesville and Albemarle County had the misfortune of qualifying for the cheapest solution … doesn’t mean we have to take it over the safest one,” May Liao, a county resident, said during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting.

Continue reading "Local officials and residents reflect on chloramines and prepare for public hearing" »

June 22, 2012

Soundboard 6-22-2012 - Charlottesville's news straight from the source

Soundboard

Soundboard: Charlottesville's news straight from the source

A collaborative local news radio program by WTJU 91.1 FM, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and C-Ville Weekly.

Each Friday from 4-5 PM, tune in to hear area journalists and guests discuss local news, culture, and community issues in the Charlottesville area. Whether we're talking about city politics, scientific innovations, or the local music scene, you'll get to hear in-depth discussion about stories that matter.

Soundboard is co-hosted by WTJU's Lewis Reining and Charlottesville Tomorrow's Jennifer Marley.

Podcasts may be downloaded from this website, via RSS, and via Charlottesville Tomorrow on iTunes.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120622-Soundboard

The June 22 show features contributors Giles Morris, Graelyn Brashear & Laura Ingles (from C-Ville Weekly) and Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler (Charlottesville Tomorrow) discussing: 

Soundboard is produced by Robert Packard and Nathan Moore. We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback!

 
Wtju-logo

CvilleTomorrow_OffcUse_x750

 
 
Cville-weekly-logo

June 21, 2012

More than a hundred residents come to chloramines panel

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority held a symposium Thursday in an effort to address public concerns raised about the safety of chloramines that are proposed for use in the Charlottesville-Albemarle urban water system beginning in 2014.

20120621-Higgins_Jerry
Jerry Higgins, manager, Blacksburg Christiansburg VPI Water Authority -- More information on panel

An audience of over 100 came to the Albemarle County Office Building to listen to and ask questions of a panel of water treatment experts recruited by the RWSA and local water activists.


Listen using player above or download the podcast:
Download 20120621-RWSA-chloramines-panel

Chloramines are in wide use in Virginia, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and recommended by the World Health Organization for water treatment systems.

Mike Gaffney, the RWSA’s chair, began the evening by telling the audience that 70 percent of Virginians are drinking chloraminated water.

“Seventeen primary waterworks in Virginia today provide chloraminated water that directly serves 2.9 million people,” Gaffney said. “In addition…there are wholesale supplies to 64 additional water systems … Overall 5.7 million people in Virginia now use and drink chloraminated water.”

Lorrie Delehanty, a city resident and medical researcher who opposes chloramines, had lobbied to get two national experts who share her concerns on the panel.

“I’m glad they got our participants on there,” Delehanty said in an interview. “I am very happy that Bob Bowcock and Susan Pickford are on the panel. We had to push for that.”

Continue reading "More than a hundred residents come to chloramines panel" »

June 18, 2012

Activists warn of health risks and environmental danger from chloramines

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, June 18, 2012

Local activists opposed to the use of chloramines in the Charlottesville-Albemarle County urban water supply held a “teach-in” Monday to share their concerns about risks to public health and safety. Organizers said they wanted to give the public a comprehensive look at the $5 million water treatment method being recommended by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority.

“This is the first opportunity for concerned citizens to learn about the upsides and the risks the addition of chloramines would pose to the regional water supply,” said city resident and medical researcher Lorrie Delehanty.

20120618-Delehanty
Lorrie Delehanty, speaking at chloramines information forum hosted by Transition Charlottesville-Albemarle

Download recent chloramine documentation
shared with the RWSA Board of Directors

   
Download

March 9, 2012 memo summarizing basis for chloramines project

Download

July 2011 Executive Summary from consultant Hazen and Sawyer

Download

EPA background information on chloramines

 

RWSA's drinking water
Frequently Asked Questions website

Monday’s forum was sponsored by Transition Charlottesville-Albemarle, a grassroots group affiliated with the global Transition Initiative, which seeks to work “toward sustainable local systems of food, goods, energy, communication and culture.” About 25 people came to the meeting at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library on Market Street.



Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120618-Chloramines-TeachIn

Delehanty was invited to share her research and a presentation from the Chloramines Information Center. She told the audience that the health risks of chloramines are significant.

“Short-term health effects include persistent skin rashes from shower water,” Delehanty said. “There can also be asthma-like symptoms as the chloramine heats up in a hot shower.”

Delehanty was asked what would happen if a home fish pond was filled from a hose.

“All your fish will die,” Delehanty responded. “If a [water] line breaks, it ends up killing everything downstream.”

Meanwhile, the RWSA insists chloramines are a safe and cost-effective way to meet new standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is requiring further limits on the level of disinfectant byproducts in drinking water which can react with organic material found naturally in water and pose health risks.

Chloramines are created by combining chlorine and ammonia, as a secondary disinfectant after first using chlorine, and are intended to prevent pathogens from growing within the water distribution system.

Although chloramines are in wide use in Virginia, approved by the EPA and recommended by the World Health Organization, activists Monday called for more scientific study.  

Dr. Julia Whiting, a city resident and emergency medicine physician on the panel, said this community needs to learn from Washington D.C.’s mistakes with lead poisoning caused by chloramines.

“Chloramines cause pipe corrosion and that led to the lead in the water,” Whiting said. “Whether you have old plumbing or new, it’s going to be a problem.”

Continue reading "Activists warn of health risks and environmental danger from chloramines" »

Water authority and activists preparing for chloramines information session

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, June 18, 2012

In response to concerns about the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s decision to use chloramines as a secondary water disinfectant, an informational meeting will be held Thursday. The event, which will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building-McIntire, will feature a diverse panel of water treatment experts.

Chloramines-lee-ro
Chloramines disinfection equipment in Los Angeles, CA
Photo used by permission of LEE & RO, Inc.

Download recent chloramine documentation
shared with the RWSA Board of Directors

Download

March 9, 2012 memo summarizing basis for chloramines project

Download

July 2011 Executive Summary from consultant Hazen and Sawyer

Download

EPA background information on chloramines

 

RWSA's drinking water
Frequently Asked Questions website


Related stories by Charlottesville Tomorrow

With rising public interest, information session scheduled on chloramines debate, May 23, 2012, by Brian Wheeler

Albemarle Supervisors question chloramines decisionmaking, May 3, 2012, by Courtney Beale

Chloramines in drinking water to be topic of public forum in June, April 24, 2012, by Brian Wheeler

Chemical engineer briefs ACSA on chloramines, April 21, 2012, by Sean Tubbs

RWSA makes case for adding chloramines to water supply, April 4, 2012, by Courtney Beale

Safety of chloramines questioned: Disinfectant to be added into local water supply starting in 2014, March 13, 2012, by Courtney Beale & Brian Wheeler

Albemarle warns of rising sewer costs and continues to question move of pump station, February 29, 2012, by Brian Wheeler

The RWSA’s Safe Water Symposium will include experts that can speak both for and against chloramines and who can provide information on alternative approaches and costs.

The RWSA has asked Dwight Flammia, a toxicologist with the Virginia Department of Health; Jerry Higgins, superintendant manager of the Blacksburg-area water authority, which currently uses chloramines; Jim Moore, a professional engineer with the VDH; Ben Stanford, director of applied research at the RWSA; consultant Hazen and Sawyer; and Steve Vaya from the Washington, D.C., office of the American Waterworks Association to sit on the panel.

Other panelists include Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech civil and environmental engineering professor who studied the correlation between Washington’s use of chloramines and its problems with lead leaching; Robert Bowcock, the environmental investigator for Integrated Resource Management; and Susan Pickford of the Chloramines Information Center.

Bowcock works with Erin Brockovich, the activist who challenged California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company about chromium contamination of groundwater. A frequent speaker around the country on water safety, Bowcock said his involvement in the Charlottesville-Albemarle water supply is related to the size of the area impacted.

“We do like to work with larger communities that are being impacted by chloramines because if we can have a larger community not use chloramines, their decision can impact the smaller communities,” Bowcock said. “It’s more bang for our buck.”

Chloramines became a contentious issue when the RWSA decided to replace traditional chlorine with chloramines as a way to meet new standards applied under Stage 2 of the Environmental Protection Agency’s disinfectant byproduct rule. Local residents and some elected officials have said there should have been more information available in advance of the February decision.

Chloramines are created by combining chlorine and ammonia. Although they are approved by the EPA, some worry about the potentially corrosive nature of the chemical and its ability to persist in water supplies.

Bowcock said residents should be concerned about the addition of chloramines to the water supply.

“There are so many different aspects to the negative impacts of chloramines,” Bowcock said. “The initial would be the health impacts associated with the use of chloramines. Secondary would be the property damage.”

Consulting firm Hazen and Sawyer was hired to research options that would allow the RWSA to meet the EPA’s requirements. The requirements must be met by 2014 or the RWSA risks up to $25,000 of fines for every day it is not in compliance. The capital costs associated with chloramination is $5 million and the next most-affordable option is granular-activated carbon filtration, which would cost $18.3 million.

Continue reading "Water authority and activists preparing for chloramines information session" »

May 23, 2012

With rising public interest, information session scheduled on chloramines debate

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority will hold a public information session on June 21 regarding the proposed use of chloramines as a secondary water disinfectant in the urban water supply starting in 2014.

At its meeting Tuesday, the RWSA board of directors discussed concerns raised by local residents about potential negative health impacts of the new treatment process.

20120522-galvin
Kathleen M. Galvin, Charlottesville City Council

The board also received a detailed seven-page memo from its executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr., addressing 13 issues raised by the public at last month’s meeting.

“I would hope what we could have is a dialogue that allows for the exchange of information,” Frederick said. “What we are trying to do here is inform the public on an option that we believe, the EPA believes, the Virginia Department of Health believes, is an acceptable option.”

The meeting will be held in Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building-McIntire. Questions from the public will be accepted in writing at the meeting and may be submitted in advance via the RWSA website.

A public hearing on the issue also will be held at a separate meeting of the “four boards” responsible for the local water supply — the RWSA, the Albemarle County Service Authority, Charlottesville’s City Council and Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors. That meeting has not been scheduled, but is expected to occur in late June or early July.

“We’ve stated as many times as we possibly can … that a thorough study was done on the options,” Frederick said. “What EPA is doing is they’re changing the rules by which byproducts have to be measured in the distribution system and what constitutes compliance with drinking water standards.”

Continue reading "With rising public interest, information session scheduled on chloramines debate" »

May 08, 2012

City proposes sewer rate increase, water rate decrease

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Charlottesville officials are proposing a slight decrease in water rates for the upcoming fiscal year, but a double-digit increase in the rate for sewer services. 
 
Sewer rates are increasing primarily due to a 12.1 percent increase from the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority,” said Bernard Wray, the city’s director of finance. 
 
Sewer-expenses
Comparison of FY2012 and FY2013 wastewater expenses. (Source: City of Charlottesville)
The sewer rate would increase from $44.70 to $50.25 per 1,000 cubic feet, or a 12.4 percent increase.
To keep the increase from being higher, the city will spend just over $1 million from its rate stabilization fund. Without doing so, the proposed rates would have been $55.23 per 1,000 cubic feet. 
 
The average monthly sewer bill for a household will rise from $25.10 to $27.72, an increase of $2.62 or 10.44 percent. 
 
The increase is in part to help cover $201 million in capital improvements the RWSA will undertake in the next five years. Over two-thirds of the proposed projects are specifically to upgrade the sewer system. 
 

Continue reading "City proposes sewer rate increase, water rate decrease" »

May 03, 2012

Albemarle Supervisors question chloramines decisionmaking

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 3, 2012

At their meeting Wednesday, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors entered one water controversy and learned another had reached a major milestone. Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the executive director of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, provided an update on plans to add chloramines to the local water supply and the status of construction of the new Ragged Mountain Dam.

Chloramines-lee-ro
Chloramines disinfection equipment in Los Angeles, CA
Photo used by permission of LEE & RO, Inc.

Download recent chloramine documentation
shared with the RWSA Board of Directors

Download

March 9, 2012 memo summarizing basis for chloramines project

Download

July 2011 Executive Summary from consultant Hazen and Sawyer

Download
EPA background information on chloramines

 

Related stories by Charlottesville Tomorrow

Chloramines in drinking water to be topic of public forum in June, April 24, 2012, by Brian Wheeler

Chemical engineer briefs ACSA on chloramines, April 21, 2012, by Sean Tubbs

RWSA makes case for adding chloramines to water supply, April 4, 2012, by Courtney Beale

Safety of chloramines questioned: Disinfectant to be added into local water supply starting in 2014, March 13, 2012, by Courtney Beale & Brian Wheeler

Albemarle warns of rising sewer costs and continues to question move of pump station, February 29, 2012, by Brian Wheeler

Supervisors Kenneth C. Boyd and Ann H. Mallek both expressed concerns about the process behind the decision to implement chloramines as a water treatment chemical. Mallek was concerned about how something that has become so controversial could have passed by the Albemarle supervisors, seemingly without review.

"We wouldn't have known to request information if we didn't know it was happening," Mallek said. "So that's why some citizens feel as if they're late to the party."

Frederick responded by saying that the issues surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency's new disinfection byproduct regulations and their impacts on the capital improvement plan were heard during the March 2011 and May 2011 RWSA board meetings, both of which included opportunities for public comment.

Chloramines, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, will be replacing chlorine in the urban ring's water supply as a secondary disinfectant. Stricter EPA regulations regarding byproduct levels have led to its use in many localities throughout the country. Concerns about chloramines have arisen because some say chloramines pose a greater health risk than traditional chlorine.

Boyd had an explanation as to why the issues surrounding chloramines were not brought to the forefront of their attention sooner.

"I think what happened was everybody was fixated on the dam at the time," Boyd said. "They weren't really paying attention."

Boyd, the county's elected representative on the RWSA board, wanted the conflicting arguments about chloramination to be better presented to the Albemarle supervisors as well as the RWSA board.

"I didn't know that there were these opposing viewpoints on the safeness of using chloramines," Boyd said. "That was never really in any of the reports we got from Rivanna."

"I'm not saying this as a criticism," Boyd added. "I just think that... going forward, when there are controversial issues there, if you could present that to us at the Rivanna board, we would know more."

Boyd suggested that a "favorable conditions and unfavorable conditions" section be added to future RWSA's reports.

Frederick and the supervisors agreed that a public information session about chloramines should be held. Frederick asked that questions be sent to the RWSA ahead of time so that their consultant, Hazen and Saywer, could prepare.

However, Mallek expressed concern that only one consulting firm researched the RWSA's water treatment options.

Continue reading "Albemarle Supervisors question chloramines decisionmaking" »

April 24, 2012

Chloramines in drinking water to be topic of public forum in June

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The future plans for treating public drinking water dominated Tuesday’s meeting of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority. However, the plan to introduce chloramines as a new disinfectant wasn’t even on the board’s meeting agenda.

Chloramines-lee-ro
Chloramines disinfection equipment in Los Angeles, CA
Photo used by permission of LEE & RO, Inc.

Download recent chloramine documentation
shared with the RWSA Board of Directors

Download

March 9, 2012 memo summarizing basis for chloramines project

Download

July 2011 Executive Summary from consultant Hazen and Sawyer

Download
EPA background information on chloramines

 

Related stories by Charlottesville Tomorrow

Chemical engineer briefs ACSA on chloramines, April 21, 2012, by Sean Tubbs

RWSA makes case for adding chloramines to water supply, April 4, 2012, by Courtney Beale

Safety of chloramines questioned: Disinfectant to be added into local water supply starting in 2014, March 13, 2012, by Courtney Beale & Brian Wheeler

Albemarle warns of rising sewer costs and continues to question move of pump station, February 29, 2012, by Brian Wheeler

It was comments by two Charlottesville city councilors and two concerned citizens that sparked the board’s discussion of the chloramines project it approved in February. They secured a commitment to a June public information session to allow for more input before the chloramines project moves much further ahead.

The local chloramines debate has gotten the attention of activists in other parts of the country too, including the team working with Erin Brockovich, the woman who famously took on California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company for chromium contamination of groundwater.

Robert W. Bowcock, an environmental investigator with Integrated Resource Management who works with Brockovich, said chloramine is quickly becoming a national issue. That’s in part because of recent changes in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that the RWSA says require action before October 2014.

“It’s a national problem and we have been receiving concerns from many of the communities near clean-up sites around the country that Erin’s involved in,” Bowcock said in an interview. “Erin Brockovich and I are getting involved because these stage 2 EPA regulations are just hitting now.”


 

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120424-RWSA-chloramines

Starting in 2014, the RWSA intends to replace chlorine with chloramines as the second step in the water treatment process, a project with capital costs of $5 million. The water authority says it is being compelled by tougher EPA regulations, and that chloramines are the best bang for the treatment buck.

The water treatment plants in Crozet and Scottsville, however, are recommended to receive a carbon filtration system with continued use of chlorine.

Charlottesville residents Lorrie Delehanty and Dr. Julia Whiting found themselves on the front lines of the debate during Tuesday’s public comment period before the RWSA board.

Whiting, a physician in emergency medicine, said she was concerned about potential health consequences of using chloramines as an additional disinfectant.

“Chloramines are a well-known pulmonary, neurologic and [gastrointestinal] toxin,” Whiting said. “The chloramine byproducts are carcinogenic ... we don’t even know that much about these byproducts, but what we do know is that they are highly toxic.”

“It seems to have been rushed along without a lot of discussion by the public,” Delehanty said after the meeting. “We need to inform people because it’s an issue that will affect every one of us.”

Continue reading "Chloramines in drinking water to be topic of public forum in June" »