“Chloramines have been in use since 1917 and we have a very long history of using [them],” said Ben Stanford, director of applied research at Hazen and Sawyer.
The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority uses free chlorine to remove bacteria and viruses from raw water as its primary disinfectant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires water treatment plants to use a secondary disinfectant to ensure no bacteria or viruses re-enter the treated water as it passes through the distribution network.
Currently the RWSA also uses free chlorine as its secondary disinfectant, but that chemical will not allow the agency to meet higher standards that will be in effect in October 2014.
“More utilities across the country have said [they] can no longer do free chlorine as a secondary disinfectant because of the need to meet these increasingly stringent regulations,” said Thomas L. Frederick, Jr., the RWSA’s executive director.
Chloramines are the newest chemical expected to be used as a secondary disinfectant in the future. However, fluoride was also in the spotlight following a November campaign by some local residents to ban its use in the water supply.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council both heard arguments last week for and against the practice, which began in the early 1950s. Both bodies say they favor the continued fluoridation of public drinking water.
“[Fluoridation] continues to be recommended today by almost every expert panel: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many others,” said Dr. Lilian Peake, the Thomas Jefferson Health District director, to the City Council.
“While water fluoridation does not eradicate tooth decay, it has been proven to be a safe and effective way to improve dental health in our community,” said David Coon, president of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Dentist Society.
“Any time you’re talking about public health issues, there is a lot of information,” said Thomas L. Frederick Jr. executive director of the RWSA. “Unless you understand the context in which those statistics and data are collected and try to move them into an appropriate context for a local discussion, a lot of what looks like information can become misinformation.”
The RWSA has decided to use chloramines instead of traditional chlorine as a secondary water treatment chemical in order to meet regulations enforced under stage 2 of the Environmental Protection Agency’s disinfectant byproduct rule.
Frederick said that city staff participated in workshops with the RWSA to weigh the pros and cons of treatment options, including chloramines, granular activated carbon filtration, magnetic ion exchange and membrane filtration.
“We are committed to optimization, and optimization does not mean lowest cost,” said Frederick. “It means [which] chemical combination creates the highest quality water that is least reactive to form byproducts.”
City staff and the RWSA ultimately recommended chloramines because the benefits of other methods did not outweigh their costs.
“The capital costs associated with chloramination is $5 million,” Frederick said. He went on to say that granular activated carbon filtration was the next most-affordable option at $18.3 million, and magnetic ion exchange was the most costly with an almost 700 percent price increase over chloramines.
“Of course, none of that matters unless it is safe,” Frederick said.
Soundboard: Charlottesville's news straight from the source.
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.
The March 16 show features, soon to be regular contributors, Giles Morris & Laura Ingles (C-Ville Weekly) and Sean Tubbs (Charlottesville Tomorrow). Plus, guests in studio were on hand to talk about plans for McIntire Park East, the local Hip Hop scene, and the Tom Tom music festival.
The panel also dives in to news about the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville, the debate about chloramines in our water, and city/county budgets.
Future programs will include other local reporters working at WTJU, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, and The Daily Progress.
We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback!
Starting in 2014, the RWSA intends to replace chlorine with chloramines as the second step in the water treatment process. The water authority says it is being compelled by tougher federal regulations, and that chloramines are the best bang for the treatment buck.
Upgrading system facilities and adding new equipment could cost more than $9 million, but RWSA officials say other alternatives that would satisfy Environmental Protection Agency requirements would cost even more.
However, some local residents and members of Charlottesville’s City Council are questioning the risks versus the benefits, particularly when RWSA’s own data show the water supply is currently acceptable by federal standards.
“We can’t confidently meet these new requirements with the process that we have now,” Thomas L. Frederick, Jr., the RWSA’s executive director, said in an interview. “We have to make a change.”
As first reported by Charlottesville Tomorrow last month, the RWSA has approved a new capital budget that allocates $9.3 million toward the project. While the urban areas get chloramines, the water treatment plants in Crozet and Scottsville are recommended to receive a carbon filtration system with continued use of chlorine.
By Brian Wheeler Charlottesville Tomorrow Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Albemarle County leaders came to this week’s meeting of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority with two big things on their mind to share with the public and representatives from the city of Charlottesville.
First, they want the public to know that bigger utility bills in the future are due largely to unfunded federal mandates and new sewer infrastructure, not new water supply dams. Second, they still believe the city is flushing $13 million down the drain on plans for a new sewer pump station.
“For the five-year period for wastewater, we are looking at over a 35 percent increase for our customers,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority. “Whereas for water in the city, it is a reduction of 10.7 percent, and 2 percent or so [reduction] in the county.”
(L to R) Albemarle Supervisor Ken Boyd, Albemarle County Executive Tom Foley, and ACSA director Gary O'Connell
On Tuesday, the RWSA approved a five-year capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2012-2016 with projected new expenditures of $129 million. The budget is about 9 percent less than the plan adopted last year.
Judy Mueller, the city’s director of public works, said she shared O’Connell’s concern and added that RWSA’s budget does not include other infrastructure upgrades budgeted separately by the city and ACSA, the RWSA’s two wholesale customers.
“We are looking at 35-38 percent increases on our customers, and we have not done the job that we probably should have to communicate to our customers why we are having to do that,” Mueller said. “We need to go on a massive public education campaign.”