Still no chloramine yet: Panel discusses city water
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | February 27,2013
Rutland’s water is still in compliance with federal regulations, and Public Works Commissioner Evan Pilachowski said Tuesday the city needs to convince regulators it will stay that way.
Pilachowski said during a panel discussion on city water that the latest tests had showed a fourth consecutive quarter in compliance after several years during which the city had been over the federal maximum for disinfection byproducts in drinking water.
“We need to make the argument that the compliance we have achieved over the last few quarters is due to changes we’ve made in water treatment,” he said Tuesday night at the forum at Rutland Free Library.
Changes in EPA regulations left Rutland with unacceptably high levels of chemicals formed when the chlorine used to disinfect the water reacted with organic compounds in the water. Last year, voters rejected a bond that would have funded a new filter to bring the city into compliance.
That left the city with the option of switching to a different disinfectant — chloramine, also referred to as monochloramine. A number of residents have opposed the switch, citing anecdotal reports of negative health effects.
The byproduct levels having come down in the last year. Pilachowski said he cannot be sure whether this was a permanent result of efforts the city took to clean up the water system or a temporary effect of Tropical Storm Irene.
He has said he intends to avoid switching to chloramine if possible, but is putting in place the infrastructure to make the switch in case the levels come back up.
An item on the March ballot asks if voters approve of the switch to chloramine. The vote is nonbinding, and the city charter gives Pilachowski sole authority over the water system. Without the bond, Pilachowski has said, he has no alternative but to use chloramine if the city again falls into violation.
Other panel members Tuesday included local activist Annette Smith, environmental investigator Bob Bowcock, who offered high praise for Rutland’s water system and Pilachowski’s efforts, and Susan Pickford, founder of the Chloramine Information Center in Pennsylvania. The latter two participated in the talk via an Internet conferencing program.
Pickford recited a litany of horrors regarding chloramine, describing skin burns and respiratory problems people have blamed on the chemical’s use in water systems.
She also described how chloramine has damaged pipes and appliances. She said the chemical has been linked to autism, the declining bee population and reduced plant growth — she said her best data on the latter phenomenon came from marijuana growers.
Pilachowski pointed out that chloramine has been in use for almost a century and is used in water systems serving 100 million Americans, that systems similar to Rutland’s have not had the problems demonstrated in some other locations, and that despite claims that there have been no tests of chloramine, animal testing was unable to identify any health problems with the chemical.