In March of 2014, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority plans to switch from chlorine to CHLORAMINE as a disinfectant in our water supply. Chloramine is a small molecule formed by the combination of chlorine and ammonia. The water authority says it is being compelled by tougher EPA regulations, and that the chloramine switch would be the most economical. It doesn’t dissipate into the air like chlorine and stays in the distribution system longer. The RWSA also claims that chloramine forms fewer regulated disinfection by products than chlorine. However, there is much to be concerned about with chloramine, as it has negative health and environmental consequences.
Water is our most precious resource and the linchpin for our health, food production and economic well-being. Without a clean, safe source of water, all of our efforts for relocalizing our food and economy – and making a resilient future for ourselves – are seriously undermined or rendered moot.
Below are a few of the problems encountered in water systems with chloramine. To help stop chloramine, read “What Can You Do?” at the bottom of this page.
-Filtration- Chlorine is relatively easy to remove from your tap water. Chlorine dissipates or out gases from water rather quickly on its own. It can also be removed by common household water filters, like the Pur faucet attachments and Brita pitchers. However, chloramine is very difficult to get out of the water. Regular water filters will not remove it. Neither will more complex water distillation or reverse osmosis systems or even boiling the water. The only reasonable way to remove chloramine is by passing the water over an activated charcoal bed system, and it takes a long time to effectively expose all of the chloramine-contaminated water over a large charcoal bed. These systems can cost the water customer thousands of dollars. This is an expensive burden to place on the water customer.
-Short Term Health Effects- Hundreds of people across the country are reporting respiratory, dermal and digestive ailments when drinking or showering in chloraminated water. Chloraminated water used to make baby formula can cause Blue Baby Syndrome. (monochloramine speciates into di and tri chloramine. Tri chloramine is a known respiratory irritant known to cause ‘swimmers asthma’ in lifeguards and routine swimmers. The same effect is being seen when chloraminated water is vaporized in showers.
-Long Term Health Effects- While both chlorine and chloramines are capable of forming disinfection by-products, chloramines also form additional disinfection by products that are up to 100,000 times more toxic. Some of these highly toxic or carcinogenic byproducts include hydrazine (component of rocket fuel), iodoacetic acids and nitrosamines. Several recent studies demonstrated a connection between the transformation of pharmaceuticals and common household products like shampoo and dish soaps and the formation of nitrosamines during chloramine disinfection. Nitrosamines are very potent carcinogens. This provides a possible link between the presence of trace levels of certain drugs and household products in drinking water sources and potential adverse health effects
In older homes, the chloramine leaches much more lead and copper out of pipes and soldering, and exposes the consumer to much higher lead levels. If there is fluoride in the water also, the two chemicals act together synergistically to leach more lead than either chemical alone. The blood lead levels in children living in Washington DC increased dramatically after the city switched to chloramine as a water disinfectant.
-Damage to plumbing infrastructure- Chloramine corrodes gaskets, valves, elastomer fittings and rubber plumbing parts like toilet flappers and rubber casings. Chloramine can cause pinhole pitting in copper pipes. Leaks from the pinholes can cause mold to grow. Insurance companies do not cover damage from mold. Appliances that come in contact with hot water (hot water heater, dishwasher, washing machine) will have shortened life spans. This doesn’t just affect the homeowner, but every business that depends on hot water to conduct business, like restaurants and laundries.
-Environmental Damage- Water containing tiny concentrations of chloramine is deadly to aquatic life (fish, frogs, and invertebrates). The same is true of chlorine. However, there is a huge difference. Chlorine dissipates very quickly and chloramine takes weeks to dissipate. So if a water main breaks and leaks chloraminated water into natural waterways, chloramine keeps killing aquatic life, whereas chlorine, which can also kill fish and invertebrates, dissipates very quickly so the devastation is quite small in comparison. Even a minor spill into a local waterway can result in a serious fish kill. The stream, Pimmit Run goes through McLean, Va. According to an article in the 4/2/08 edition of the Fairfax County Times, a water main broke, leaking “hundreds” of gallons of chloraminated water into Pimmit Run, and killing “at least 90 percent of the fish”, according to Ed Pickens of Fairfax Trails and Streams. This happened over several miles of the stream, the article stated.
1) Call or email your representatives on Charlottesville City Council or Albemarle Board of Supervisors.
2) Write a letter to the editor for the local newspaper.
3) Get the facts on chloramine: http://www.chloramine.org/chloraminefacts.htm
4) Sign the online petition urging RWSA not to put chloramine in our water supply: http://signon.org/sign/rwsa-do-not-use-chloramines?source=c.em.cp&r_by=165880