The water is safe to drink for customers of the West Warren-Viola Utility District who recently received a letter telling them their utility had violated federal drinking water standards.
“I drink it, my children drink it. It’s safe,” said West Warren-Viola representative Tim Pelham. “There is no hazard.”
His comments come after a letter was mailed to their 5,300 customers advising them the utility, between July 1,2012 and June 30, 2013 was slightly above the limit for haloacetic acid. The exact level was .062 when the top allowable level was .060 mg/L, meaning they were .002 of a percent above the maximum level.
Haloacetic acids are byproducts of water chlorination. Water is chlorinated to minimize microbial life in drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency says people who consistently drink water high in haloacetic acids have an increased risk of getting cancer.
“The actual risk has been identified as being one out of 10,000 people may get cancer if they drink two liters of water each day for 70 years,” the letter from the utility read.
Pelham said there is no risk of a person drinking that amount of water with high haloacetic acid for that period in the West Warren district, especially since the reading reported by the EPA was the exception rather than the rule.
Pelham revealed the sample which caused the high reading came from the Barren Fork River and was pulled from Beech Grove, which is the furthest point from the main plant. He also said it had been raining right before causing the water to be muddier and more prone to organics. Pelham noted his most recent draw revealed the amount to be .032, well below the limit of .060.
However, even though the high level reported to the EPA was not the norm, Pelham said the utility is doing its due diligence to make sure it stays within legal parameters.
“We take this very seriously,” said Pelham, noting the utility has purchased new equipment to aid in its testing to further ensure all drinking water remains well within state and federal standards.
Ricky Morton of the McMinnville Water Department, which draws its water from the same river, stands by West Warren noting that stricter federal regulations hold utilities to a higher standard.
“We have never had a violation here,” Morton said of McMinnville Water Plant, noting they would have to send out notices to customers just like West Warren if there was a violation.
With that said, Morton defended the drinking water in Warren County.
“I think we have the best water plants in the state,” Morton said. “Our utilities take what they do very seriously.”