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Town’s water raises red flag

EPA cites Bethlehem for levels of chemical byproducts in water system

Clapper Road Water Treatment Facility.

Clapper Road Water Treatment Facility. Photo by Alyssa Jung.

— The Town of Bethlehem has been cited by the Environmental Protection Agency when its drinking water was found to not in be compliance with new guidelines at several testing locations.

Department of Public Works Director Erik Deyoe said recently, levels of chemical compounds called trihalomethanes, were found to be higher than regulatory standards at several testing sites. Trihalomethanes (THM) are formed when chlorine added to disinfect drinking water reacts with organic compounds.

“Right now, we want to do our best to take some of those organics out of our water system,” Deyoe said. “We plan to do a system-wide flushing to help improve the water quality.”

The town was not in compliance this year at some testing locations because of changes made to EPA guidelines in 2012. Previously, tests were made system-wide to check the levels of the chemical compounds and the average score of the entire system was taken. Now, the levels of chemical compounds at each testing site must be submitted.

Samples drawn from the furthest limits of the system, where the water sits longer and has more opportunity to form the byproducts, had the highest levels. Deyoe said usually these sites also have the fewest number of people drawing from them, which is another reason water from those sites sits for longer periods of time.

Each Bethlehem resident should have received a notice in their water bill with answers to many general questions about the matter. Although trihalomethanes have been known to cause some health effects over long periods of time, the levels in the town’s drinking water are not considered to have reached a high enough level to be of concern, officials said.

“The average person would need to drink water containing trihalomethanes at twice the regulatory limit for several decades to present any risk of adverse health effects,” read the letter from the town.

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