Monroe City Public Water System customers concerned about drinking water standards.

The City of Monroe City has informed their water customers that the Monroe City Public Water System has levels of disinfection byproducts above drinking water standards. This letter is the second letter sent to the public within the last three months reporting high levels of total trihalomethanes and the third letter sent in the past two years. Previously, the 2018 annual average testing report was high, which forced the City to conduct quarterly testing. As a result of the quarterly testing being high, for two consecutive years, the Department of Natural Resources requested an engineer study be performed to help the City meet the drinking water standards.

The recent water sample test showed a running annual average of 127 MCL which is higher than the last reading sent out to the public, which informed the public of a quarterly reading of 90 MCL. The Department of Natural resources maximum contaminate level (MCLs) of TTHM is 80 parts per billion (ppb) or micrograms per liter as an average.

The latest letter informs the public that an engineering study of the treatment process is being conducted to gain additional treatment options to alleviate the total trihalomethanes. In a recent City Council meeting, the engineering study was estimated to cost the City $25-30,000. PeopleService’s Inc. will be able to use the engineer study to help change the chemical process correctly. PeopleService’s was hired in late 2018 by the City, under a 3.3-million-dollar, five-year contract, to manage the City’s Public Water System.

After a year of continued water problems, residents using the public water system are still raising questions if this was the best and most cost-effective decision to supply safe drinking water to the citizens.

In a recent Letter to the Editor, published in The Lake Gazette, General Manager of Clarence Cannon Wholesale Water Commission, Mark McNally, addressed the customers of the Monroe City Public Water System to inform them there were and are other options.

McNally explained, “In March 2014, an Engineering Report on the feasibility and cost for the City to connect to the Commission was completed.  The Commission paid for this study.  At the time of the study, the average daily production for the City was 234,139 gallons per day (GPD), which equates to 163 GPM.  After receiving the report, I made a presentation to the City Council in 2014 at a normally scheduled meeting on the options for the City to connect.  The total cost in 2014 dollars for the project was $1,685,800 to guarantee 250 GPM or 360,000 gallons per day.  The City opted not to connect to the Commission at that time.  Since 2014 there has been no contact between the City and Commission to revisit the issue.  If the project were to be completed, the City’s water plant would not be used any longer, as the entire demand of the City would be met by the Commission.  Monroe City would still be responsible for maintain its distribution system and bill their customers for water received.”  

Previous city employees, who have asked to remain anonymous, reported while working at the Public Water Building over a long number of years, the numbers were changed to meet the Department of Natural Resources drinking water standards. When samples were required to be sent in, water was brought from home for testing, this water source was taken from Cannon Water Supply and not the City’s public water system to meet the standard testing requirements. These employee’s no longer work for the City causing a change of hands, and new people to record water testing numbers. If what the previous employees are saying is true, it could make one wonder just how long the water has not been meeting the DNR drinking water standards.

TTHM are a group of disinfection byproducts that form when chlorine compounds that are used to disinfect water, react with other naturally occurring chemicals in the water.  They are colorless, and will evaporate out of the water into the air. There are four significant TTHM potentially found in disinfected drinking water and their combined concentration is referred to as total TTHM.

Levels of TTHM generally increase in the summer months due to the warmer temperatures, but can also be affected by seasonal changes in source water quality or by changing amounts of disinfection added.  Water systems often can experience temporary increases in TTHM due to short-term increases in chlorine disinfection.  Chlorine disinfection increases can occur when there is a water main break, when water systems are under repair, or when there is a potential microbial problem or threat.

People may be exposed to TTHM in drinking water from ingestion (i.e., drinking the water and ingesting it in foods and/or ice prepared with the water).  In addition, TTHM vaporize readily into the air so inhalation exposure to TTHM can be significant, especially when showering and bathing, as can exposure from absorption through the skin.

In the letter sent to the public, the City expresses customers do not need to use an alternative water supply, but for specific health concerns, consult a doctor. The information provided shares there is no immediate risk, and if it had been, customers would have been notified immediately.

Based on the available information, long term consumption of TTHM in drinking water above the MCL may increase the risk of certain types of cancer (e.g., bladder, colon, and rectal) and other adverse effects in some people. People Service’s General Manager George Hausdorf stated, “Drinking one liter for 60 years everyday could increase a person’s risk for bladder cancer.”  The degree of risk for these effects will depend on the TTHM level and the duration of exposure.  

Consumption of water with TTHM levels somewhat above the MCL for limited durations, for example, while corrective actions are being taken to lower the levels, is not likely to significantly increase risks of adverse health effects for most people.  Because some data indicate that disinfection byproducts may increase the risk of developmental effects, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant may wish to avoid consuming water containing TTHM and other disinfection byproducts exceeding the drinking water standard. There are no current studies to show any short-term dangers.

For questions or concerns, residents can call Hausdorf at (573)735-2822 or call the DNR at (660)385-8000.

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