Saturday, September 16, 2017

Is Gloucester County’s Public Drinking Water Making You Sick?

Gloucester, VA - Picture taken for the new Gloucester Links & News website. Gloucester County, Virginia public water customers, located in two different areas of the County’s public drinking water distribution system, received notice with their September first water bill that excessive levels of disinfection byproducts (DBP’s) had been detected. What are DBP’s you ask; DBPs form when disinfectants such as chlorine, chloramines, chlorine dioxide or ozone react with organic and inorganic substances present in raw water. Sound complicated? Well it is, so we will keep this as down to earth and simple as we can. 

The DBP identified in the notice, Trihalomethanes (THM), are not good. In fact, if consumed over extended periods of time or in large enough quantities, THM’s can cause numerous health issues. According to the not very informative notice Utilities sent to affected customers; some people who consume THM’s for an extended period of time can develop liver, kidney and central nervous system problems and may have an increased risk of getting cancer. A clinical and epidemiological review published by the National Institutes of Health says THM’s from chlorinated water have been associated with spontaneous abortion, low birth weight and birth defects. Some studies suggest exposure to chlorine vapors, including THMs, especially while showering, bathing or working in Gloucester’s surface water treatment plant may lead to asthma, other respiratory disorders and may harm the lining of the respiratory tract.
For the most part, THM’s are not noticeable to the average person and without mandatory testing we would likely hear even less about them. There are ways you can protect yourself from THM’s. The best and most effective method of eliminating THM’s and many other harmful elements found in public water systems is a whole home filtration system. These systems filter all the water that enters the building to include showers and outside faucets. A less aggressive method of getting rid of THM’s are individual facet/sink filters. These are great to get rid of the junk in the water you drink and cook with, but do nothing to get rid of the stuff in the shower. Boiling water for 5 minutes or longer will also eliminate THM’s from your water, but be sure not to breath the steam.  
The DBP notice from Utilities asks each customer to share the information provided with all other people who drink the affected water. I wonder if the York River Oyster Company restaurant is notifying their customers and if Gloucester Point Baptist Church is notifying its members, as they are both connected to the Terrapin Cove Road waterline that tested high in THM’s. The other location where high levels of THM’s were detected is on Clopton Drive in Gloucester County.
We cannot speak for the customers on or near Clopton Drive, but we know with absolute certainty that this is not the only time the waterline along Terrapin Cove Road has been found to contain high levels of THM’s. We also know with certainty that water containing excessive levels of THM’s was most likely consumed for years at T.C. Walker and Achilles schoolhouses and possibly at Gloucester High School. Wonder if that has anything to do with the increased number of school employees being diagnosed with cancer over the last few years. It is time to stop kicking the dirty water can down the road, but it does not look like the elected and hired people in our local government plan do anything to repair our neglected infrastructure anytime soon. Remember that when you vote this November.
Here is Gloucester County’s High DBP level notice: