Health & Wellness

City Officials Say Water Violation is “an Issue,” Not an “Emergency”

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The City of New Brunswick issued this notice yesterday in a press release. Credits: Jennifer Bradshaw/City of New Brunswick
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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ- Test results from the city’s water utility show higher level of contaminants in the drinking water, but not at a level of deep concern.

Test results from September 30 and October 1 have found that the water has reached its maximum contaminant level (MCL) for Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM). TTHM are four volatile organic chemicals that form when disinfectants, like chlorine, react with natural organic matter in the water.

“This is not an emergency, not a crisis, but it is an issue,” said Mark Lavenberg, Director of Water Utility for the City of New Brunswick.

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According to the notice released by the city, people who drink water that contains TTHM in excess of the maximum contaminant levels for many years may experience problems with the liver, kidneys and/or central nervous system and possibly an increased risk for cancer.

“One of the critical things that happen in water supplies is they get treated to make sure that you have no bacteria in the water going to the customers that would harm people’s health,” said Daniel Van Abs, an associate professor in environmental policy at Rutgers University.

“Of course, bacteria could cause a health problem right away, so what they do is they treat it with some kind of chlorine compound, the professor explains.  “That (chlorine compound) kills the bacteria and then you have a chlorine residual, a certain amount of chlorine that goes out into the water line and that travels with the water all the way to the customer.

“That is why in New Brunswick (or anywhere) you’ll have this very light chlorine odor when the water comes out of the tap, that’s to keep it safe,” he concluded.

Van Abs supported that this MCL violation would only be a health concern if the TTHM remained in the drinking water over an extended period of time.

“There’s a trade off here. On one hand you’re protecting customers from something that can harm them right now. One the other is that you now have all these disinfection bi-products,” the professor said. 

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