Toxic Treatment: Chlorine vs. Chloramine for Public Water Disinfection

The New Normal? Updated
Methane contamination has become such an issue that one of PA’s largest water suppliers, Pennsylvania American Water Co. in Hershey, PA, is working to stay ahead of the toxicity curve. David Templeton and Don Hopey report in Water company plans to change disinfectant used in some systems, in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the company will switch more treatment plants from Chlorine to Chloramine for disinfection in order to control “carcinogenic disinfection byproducts including trihelamethane and haloacetic acid.

According to Heinz Award winning Ecologist and Author, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., when you chlorinate water that is contaminated with methane you end up with disinfection by-products such as Trihalomethanes, or chloroforms, which are known to cause bladder and colon cancer.

Use of Chloramine in public water supplies is more widely opposed than Chlorine. While complaints from Chlorine are mostly aesthetic, such as taste and smell, complaints from Chloramine include skin rashes, respiratory and digestive problems. EPA admits that not as much research has been done on Chloramine as Chlorine. Nevertheless, PA American Water is looking to increase their use of Chloramine wherever possible.

Pennsylvania American Water Co. will switch soon from chlorine to chloramine to disinfect water it sends through its 2,200 miles of water mains to 215,000 customers in Washington and southern Allegheny counties.” Read more: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I recently created a new page about this trending chemical-swap, yet another grim aspect of the shale gas phenomenon, and I was grateful to receive this informative Comment from Susan Pickford, Director of the Chloramine Information Center in Camp Hill, PA:

Communities are right to be concerned. The Post-Gazette article did little to truly tell the whole story of chloramine. The current and prevailing science in the country states that

1) chloramine byproducts are as much as 100,000 times more toxic than the TTHMs and HAAs of chlorine,

2) These byproducts include NDMA, Hydrazine, Iodoacetic Acids and DXAA which are genotoxic (break DNA), Cytotoxic (damages cells) and mutagenic (google them – they are seriously dangerous),

3) chloramine has been responsible for several reported massive fish kills in VA, CA, and BC.

4) Chloramine leaches lead into the water for our children to drink

5) Chloramine pitts copper pipes and literally ‘eats’ rubber and elastomer fittings requiring replacement of gaskets every 5-6 months as opposed to 5 years with chlorine 6) Chloramine presents a national security concern as it is less reactive to a biological attack on our water than chlorine 7) Chloramine is the least effective biocide available leaving us exposed to e-coli, polio 1 and rhotoviruses more than chlorine. In addition, hundreds of people in 20 states including PA have reported acute health symptoms from exposure to chloramine including

  • persistent skin rashes
  • respiratory issues
  • digestive issues
  • mouth ulcers.

Water companies converting to chloramine are trying to fix a compliance problem with a less effective, more highly toxic disinfectant. We have found that compliance can usually be achieved with an adjustment to the treatment process and/or distribution system adjustments. cities and counties across the country are rejecting chloramine or reverting back to chlorine after experiencing the problems of chloramine systems first hand.

Citizen groups in 7 states are fighting the use of chloramine in our drinking water systems. Recently, we have coordinated with Erin Brockovich and her water expert Bob Bowcock to form a national effort to stop the use of chloramine nation-wide.

You can find more information on Chloramine at http://www.chloramineinfocenter.net, chloramine.org and vce.org.

About Chloramine Info Center

One stop for all your chloramine questions, The Chloramine Info Center is a grassroots organization of over 2,000 citizens of South Central Pennsylvania who oppose the introduction of CHLORAMINE into our drinking water. Members of this group cross political, age and economical lines. We are not radical activitists looking for a cause. We are, senior citizens, cancer survivors, young parents, grandparents, pet owners, fisherman, citizens concerned about our health, our environment, limited water resources, and our children’s future. We are asking for clean, safe water and we demand an honest and accountable water company.

Also according to the website, Harrisburg does not use Chloramine. United Water, serving Mechanicsburg and Carlisle, has not used Chloramine. Aqua water currently uses Chloramine in 4 out of their 122 facilities in PA.

[Source: chloramineinfocenter.net]

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3 Responses to “Toxic Treatment: Chlorine vs. Chloramine for Public Water Disinfection”

  1. Julie A. Edgar Says:

    holy fracking water-safety issues, batman!!!! Liz, i learned something new today. thank-you for this important post! 😦

  2. The Year Fractivism Exploded « Keep Tap Water Safe Says:

    […] 3.  Toxic Treatment: Chlorine vs. Chloramine for Public Water Disinfection […]

  3. pmm621 Says:

    When chlorine is mixed with bromides (mostly coming from fracking wastewater) THM’s are created. I think they are using chloramine, as it mixes “better” with bromides. Either way, hopefully we can come up with a better system.

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