OAKLAND (KRON) — A cancer-causing compound in East Bay drinking water has reached a near critical level, with concentrations of the compound higher than they have been in the last 20 years.
This came to light Tuesday in a report by the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which provides drinking water to 1.4 million people, and the district also assured KRON4 the water is safe to use.
Two places have reached the near critical level–Lafayette and the Oakland Hills.
In the water, at issue, is the presence of trihalomethanes or THMs. THMs are known to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
It is formed when chlorine, used to disinfect, reacts with organic matter in the water. It’s always in the water, but concentrations of THMs have increased sharply in the last few years.
The drought is partially to blame, according to East Bay MUD.
“So when people are using less water, it means the water sits longer in our system, which means we need to add additional chlorine to make sure that it does not dissipate,” East Bay MUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook said.
The Environmental Protection Agency set the rules for THMs in water at 80 parts per billion.
East Bay MUD’s goal is much more strict at 40 parts per billion.
But the most recent testing from the second quarter of 2017, showed concentrations above 80.
These elevated levels are a cause for concern to East Bay MUD.
“Is this the new normal? That is the real question,” Pook said. “Is this something that is the result of the last drought that we had? Is this something that will be here to stay?”
Now, East Bay MUD would like to explore other ways to treat the water, such as adding new chemicals and changing equipment at treatment plants, lowering the levels of cancer-causing elements of the water.
“East Bay MUD water is safe and meets all state and federal standards,” Pook said.
In the short term, crews will begin flushing out the system starting Wednesday.
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