POSTED ON OCTOBER 19, 2011:
Changes coming for Tulsaís water treatment
It's not new technology, but tightening EPA regulations call for changes in the way Tulsa water is disinfected.
"We're changing the way we treat our water," said Bob Bledsoe, in the City of Tulsa communications department.
The new disinfection process will utilize chloramines, a chemical result of combining chlorine and ammonia.
"Tulsa is probably one of the last largest cities that's not using chloramines," Bledsoe said.
For decades, this method has been used by Oklahoma City, Sand Springs, St. Louis, Kansas City and Dallas, among many others.
Several months ago, the EPA notified cities of the change in regulations. Tulsa "had to meet different standards for disinfection, so we're adopting the technology that a lot of other cities use," Bledsoe said.
The switch from chlorine to chloramines was set to conclude in mid- to late-November, but is now being pushed back a little later.
Like most cities, Tulsa currently uses chlorine to disinfect the water supply. The problem lies in time. "When water stays in the distribution system a long time, the chlorine can evaporate and lessen," Bledsoe said.
The problem lies at the crossroads between "organics" in the system and how rapidly the water is used. If chlorine has a chance to evaporate before water is used -- when water use is lower or for people at the end of water lines -- there is a possibility for contamination.
As with most change, the imminent switch to chloramines has met with some controversy.
A few groups will be affected by the change, including fish pond or aquarium owners and dialysis patients. The chloramines-treated water is safe to drink, to use in cooking and to bathe in, but cannot be used in the actual dialysis process.
Bledsoe said some concerned citizens in Vermont protested the change to chloramine disinfection, which led to a Centers for Disease Control investigation. The CDC didn't find a link connecting chloramines to human illness.
"What they found out was that most of the input they were getting was from alarmists," Bledsoe said.
Since the city notified Tulsans of the change, one Tulsan contacted the Erin Brockovich Foundation to ask for help regarding chloramines implementation. Since then, the man attended an open house held by the city on the topic and hasn't voiced further concern, Bledsoe said.
"We're not trying some new technology on our water," Bledsoe said. "St. Louis has been using [chloramines] since the 1930s."
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