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Warmer Weather Means More Harmful DBPs In Bloomington’s Water

(Steve Burns, WFIU/WTIU News)

For the past two years, the City of Bloomington has worked hard to keep cancer-linked chemicals from disinfectants out of residents’ drinking water. But warmer weather makes this even more difficult.

As Lake Monroe heats up, more plants and other living things grow and decay there — which means there’s more matter that can interact with the city’s disinfectants and form harmful byproducts. As a result, there were higher amounts of those byproducts this spring than in the previous two.

There are two main disinfectant byproducts the city looks at — trihalomethanes (TTHMs) are usually at higher levels in the late summer and haloacetic acids (HAA5s) ​have higher levels in the spring.

“Recently we’ve done modifications to the plant to change where we add our chlorine which pretty effectively reduced our levels drastically,” says City Water Quality Coordinator Michael Chase.

The city is also working to remove more of the organic matter that can lead to these harmful byproducts.

Bloomington Director of Utilities Vic Kelson says though these chemicals may put you at a higher risk for cancer, you probably won’t notice any other health effects.

“It’s not something you’ll feel on your skin. You won’t feel them, you won’t taste them and it’s basically something that could have an effect on you over a lifetime of exposure,” he says.

Through the city’s efforts and better conditions on Lake Monroe, Kelson says disinfectant byproduct levels came down sharply between June and July.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.
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