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BETHLEHEM — In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the state and the Environmental Protection Agency prescribe regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. To comply with state regulations, the town Department of Public Works issues an annual report describing the quality of drinking water consumed by town residents.
Last year, DPW conducted tests for more than 80 contaminants. While 27 of those contaminants were detected, only one was found at a higher level than regulations allow. Bethlehem’s water exceeded the drinking water standard for total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), which are chemicals, including chloroform, that are created when chlorine used to control microbial contaminants in drinking water react with naturally occurring organic matter in water systems.
According to the 2017 Water Quality Report issued by the town, DPW is working to rectify the problem by performing increased levels of distribution system flushing and designing improvements to one of the water treatment plants that should result in a reduced amount of the TTHMs being formed in the distribution system.
“We are working closely with the EPA and NYS and Albany County Departments of Health to correct this violation,” reads the report. “We are currently designing improvements at the Clapper Road Water Treatment Plant that will allow us to remove more natural organic matter from the water and relocate the point of chlorine addition to the end of the drinking water treatment process. This will result in a significant reduction in the formation of trihalomethanes in the distribution system and get us into compliance with the state regulation.”
While some contaminants, such as barium, chloride and copper, were found at lower levels, the only sampling found to exceed state-mandated levels has been trihalomethanes found at the sampling site at Wemple Road. Disinfection by-product (such as TTHMs) samples are taken quarterly at four sampling stations throughout the town, said Commissioner of Public Works George Kansas, and the Wemple Road station is the only one to be found noncompliant.
Through an agreement with nearby Air Products and Chemicals Inc. on River Road in Glenmont, a dead end pipe at that location will be extended. According to Kansas, stagnant water can also result in higher levels of trihalomethanes and the extension should also help to reduce those levels.
The EPA provides the following health effects information on trihalomethanes: “Some people who drink water containing trihalomethanes in excess of the MCL over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, or central nervous systems, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.”
Water Quality Reports going back as far as 2008 can be found on the town’s website at www.townofbethlehem.org, by clicking on the Water Quality link on the left side of the page. Additional information regarding contaminant levels and the dangers posed by those contaminants, as well as tips for conserving water, can also be found within the reports.
The Bethlehem Water District serves approximately 35,000 people through 11,582 service connections. The system has over 220 miles of water mains and approximately 1,670 hydrants for fire protection. It also includes several water storage tanks with a combined capacity of 15.2 million gallons.