Tracy City residents received a notice in the mail last week, raising concerns about the safety of their drinking water. The letter, from the Tracy City Public Utility District, stated the Tracy City Water System violated a federal drinking water standard between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016.
The letter did not mention any immediate action needed on the part of residents; it did say the city is taking steps to correct the problem. It also explains that there are possible hazards that can result from drinking the water over a long period.
According to the letter, trihalomethanes (TTHMs), the chemical found in the water, can cause “problems with the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system,” and can cause an increased risk of cancer for people drinking water with increased TTHMs over “many years.” And, according to the EPA, anytime the recommended level of TTHMs is exceeded, the public must be notified.
Tommy McFarland, general manager of the utility district, said health issues would only be seen if a person consumed large amounts of water containing the found level of TTHMs. “A person would have to consume approximately two liters of water every day for a 70-year period to come within 0 to 10,000 of a chance of seeing related health problems,” stated McFarland.
The TCPUD reports the problem arose after raising the level of the Big Fiery Gizzard Reservoir.
“We had something happen that has never happen in previous years,” said McFarland. “The lake turned completely black in color, the oxygen levels dropped to near zero at the old intake level that was at 14 feet below the full pool of the lake. The iron and manganese levels increased as well. This was due to organic overloading from raising the dam seven feet.”
Water for Tracy City residents had previously been drawn at a depth of six feet. It was raised in February of 2015, to a depth of 14 feet.
“The deeper you go, the more problems you find with water quality,” explained McFarland.
However, through ongoing improvements to the treatment process, the draw level was returned to six feet in July, before the utility was notified in August of the TTHMs containments.
TTHMs were discovered in the water based on quarterly location tests the utility is required to submit. Water was tested at the Clouse Hill location and the Foster Falls location. The samples with high levels of TTHMs came from the Foster Falls samples.
“You have to keep in mind that these samples were taken 20 miles from the plant,” said McFarland. “The further away from the plant you get, the chances for small levels of containments rises. This means that not everyone’s water in the Tracy City area was affected.”
The utility district continues to follow EPA guidelines and will submit samples again in November. McFarland said it will take several quarters to get the sampling numbers back to normal, but this does not mean residents should be concerned about their drinking water. While the TTHMs were over the EPA’s required limit for one year, only long-term consumption of large quantities of water with this level of TTHMs would be hazardous to a person’s health.
“The Tracy City Public Utility has taken measures to improve its treatment processes by adding an additional raw water intake level approximately 6 feet below the full pool lake level. Since raising the Big Fiery Gizzard Reservoir 7 feet, the raw water quality has been experiencing high levels of organics and dissolved metals such as; iron and manganese. These contaminants leach out of the soil, which is now under water.
“The utility has increased the sampling frequency of TOC’s and Trihalomethane testing to ensure these changes we have made are improving the water quality. The utility is also stepping up its flushing program, especially in areas more susceptible to aging ware (sic). We will be utilizing some automatic flushing devices in these areas to keep the water quality at its maximum.”
Visit www.grundycountyherald.com for the full text of the letter.