Fayette system in search of new water cleaning techniques

The Fayette County Water System recently received a notice of violation from the state of Georgia. So what does that mean and what is its significance?

A Notice of Violation from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) concerning total trihalomethanes (TTHM) found in one of Fayette County’s 12 water sites poses no health threat and is being addressed, according to water system Director Tony Parrott.

The change in the way the EPD calculates the standard for TTHM in drinking water last year meant Fayette would be unable to meet the new standard until new techniques can be put in place in the coming months.

Parrott said Fayette County has been proactive over the years in researching and treating Total Organic Carbon (TOC) in its water reservoirs. In 2005, the Fayette County Water System began studying ways to treat TOC, and a pilot test of different treatment techniques was conducted in 2010. In April 2012, the Fayette County Board of Commissioners approved a bond issue to fund a treatment solution and, recently, commissioners approved a second look at available techniques for water treatment. The review is expected be completed within a few months, said Parrott.

At issue is the length of time water stays in the pipes and the age of the pipes. The TOC in the water reacts with the chlorine and the longer the water is in the system the higher the TTHM level will be, said Parrott. The new technique that will be employed after the review will reduce the TOCs in the water leaving the water plant and that will reduce the total trihalomethanes in the system, he said.

Parrott earlier in July noted that the issue for which the EPD cited the local water system has nothing to do with and is entirely separate from the recent issue of “stinky water” in Fayette County.

Trihalomethanes, such as chloroform, are formed as a by-product predominately when chlorine is used to disinfect water for drinking. Disinfectants are used to protect drinking water from disease-causing organisms, or pathogens. This violation is not life-threatening and does not pose a risk to the quality of water supplied to the citizens of Fayette County, said Parrott.

The Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for total trihalomethanes (TTHM) in public drinking water is .08 ppm (parts per million). The MCL for total trihalomethanes was exceeded in one of the 12 county water sites tested, Parrott said. The site off Goza Road in south Fayette tested .102 and .109 ppm during the January-March and April-June time frames, respectively. The remaining 11 sites around the county were within acceptable levels for TTHM, said Parrott.

Parrott said EPD in 2012 changed the TTHM calculation to an individual site’s four-quarter running average. Previously, the calculation was a four-quarter running average of all the sites.

“Mathematically we could not meet the new standard due to the way it is calculated. Fayette County anticipated not meeting this new standard and that anticipation is the reason behind researching alternative treatment techniques. Since the TTHM calculation is based on a four-quarter running average, Fayette County will probably not be in compliance when the results are provided next quarter,” Parrott said.

Trihalomethanes are a group of four chemicals that are formed along with other disinfection byproducts when chlorine or other disinfectants used to control microbial contaminants in drinking water react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter in water.

The trihalomethanes are chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform.

A 0.08 parts per million standard is for total trihalomethanes and is based on an average daily intake of two liters of water per day by a 154-pound adult, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Water systems across Georgia are required to test for more than 130 metals and industrial chemicals. Yet there are approximately 100,000 industrial chemicals sold in the United States. Aside from the lack of a state or federal mandate to test the great bulk of the chemicals, local water systems do not have the funding that would be needed to conduct those tests.

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