The city of Glenwood’s water system continues to be in violation of established drinking water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to a legal notice published in the Aug. 1 edition of The Opinion-Tribune and a letter sent to customers of the Glenwood Municipal Utilities (GMU), recent testing indicated the city’s water system is exceeding the standard or maximum contaminant level (MCL) for trihalomethanes, a chemical by-product formed when chlorine or other disinfectants used to control contaminants in drinking water react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter in the water. The maximum level of trihalomethanes acceptable in drinking water, according to the EPA standard, is 0.080 milligrams per liter (mg/L). The level of trihalomethanes in Glenwood's water during the most recent quarterly test was 0.0905 mg/L. The running average of the last four quarterly tests for Glenwood water was 0.0878 mg/L.
Glenwood's water system has been exceeding the standard for trihalomethanes for more than two years and is generating concern among some GMU water customers who have voiced their displeasure on social media sites and made telephone calls to the Mills County Public Health Office and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Mills County Public Health environmental specialist Mike Sukup said his office has no jurisdiction or direct involvement with GMU, but noted he has fielded calls from Glenwood residents concerned about their drinking water. Sukup said he refers the calls to GMU or the DNR.
As noted in GMU’s most recent notice to its customers, some people who drink excessive amounts of water containing trihalomethanes that exceed the EPA standard over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys or central nervous systems, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.
“You do not need to use an alternative (bottled) water supply. However, if you have specific health concerns, consult your doctor,” the GMU notice stated.
GMU water superintendent Dale Marshall said he understands customer concerns about the water, but added, “Progress is being made” to remedy the situation.
Marshall said GMU has communicated with several other communities that have faced similar issues with their water systems and several plant studies have been done to determine the effectiveness of chlorine alternatives for the reduction and removal of organic matter from the water. Marshall said an on-going study involving the use of chloramine as a disinfectant alternative has produced successful results in the laboratory and he’s optimistic it will produce lower trihalomethane levels once integrated into Glenwood's water distribution system.
Marshall said the new treatment could result in the water having a slight change in taste and odor.
“It will be less chlorine and possibly less of that swimming pool taste and odor,” he said.
Marshall said GMU has been working closely with engineering consultants and the DNR to implement changes necessary to bring the drinking water into compliance with EPA standards.
“We’ve got a lot of people looking over our shoulders and hopefully giving us good advice,” Marshall said. “We’ll be monitoring things very closely.”
If or when GMU is able to get the trihalomethane levels in check, it could take up to four consecutive quarterly tests before the EPA standard is met.