News Feature | October 16, 2013

Chloramine Controversy Spurs Disinfectant Byproduct Research

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Tulsa, OK is funding a study on activated carbon in hopes of developing new ways to clean water. The effort comes on the heels of the city's controversial decision to add chloramine to its water supply as a cleaning mechanism.

The research study is based at the University of Arkansas. "Scientists say the goal of the project is to improve Tulsa's drinking water by decreasing the formation of regulated disinfectant byproducts. Those chemicals are formed as an unintended consequence when drinking water is disinfected," The Associated Press reported.  

The news service explained how those consequences arise: "Organic matter present in source waters reacts with disinfectants such as chlorine or chloramine to form the disinfectant byproducts. Since the 1970s, scientists have identified more than 600 of these byproducts, many of them suspected carcinogens."

Tulsa raised the stakes on such research by implementing a water policy that ruffled some feathers last year. The new policy was aimed at meeting federal standards on the presence of trihalomethanes (THMs).

"One year ago the Tulsa City Water Department started adding chloramine to the city's water supply. It was a controversial decision. The opposition to using chloramine centers around health concerns," NBC 2 reported.

Jeanine Kinney, co-founder of Tulsans Against Chloramine, told NBC that hundreds of locals are complaining of problems potentially related to chloramine, including rashes, trouble breathing or digestive problems. She sees the carbon method as a solution. 

"She says rather than chloramine, a system called Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) is a better, safer, alternative," the report said. 

A city official said GAC is already used in Tulsa treatment plants, but "it is not currently sufficient to get those dangerous THMs out of the water." 

Roy Foster, the water quality assurance manager for the city of Tulsa, told Tulsa World the research contract with the University of Arkansas is "part of an ongoing commitment" to the citizens of Tulsa to improve the quality of water. The contract cost Tulsa $156,000, he said.

Image credit: "Carbon-Water-Cartridge__33324," © 2010 Public Domain Photos, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: