News Feature | December 17, 2013

Disinfectant Byproduct Yields Water Scare Near Baltimore

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Thousands of people in the Baltimore area will soon receive a warning about contaminants in their drinking water. 

"About 88,000 people in the Lutherville area – some in northern Baltimore City, but most in Baltimore County – are being warned by mail that the city water they use had levels of haloacetic acid that exceeded the state and federal legal limits," Baltimore Brew reported

Quarterly sampling revealed the average contamination level was 62 ppb, the report said, citing a spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works (DPW). 

There are possible health consequences, according to ABC News. 

"Certain people may be at an increased risk – such as people with compromised immune systems, infants, pregnant women, and the elderly; the head of the city's DPW says they might want to seek advice from their doctor," the report said. 

According to a fact sheet of EPA data, "Some people who drink water containing haloacetic acids in excess of EPA's standard over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer." 

DPW told consumers that they do not need to boil water or take corrective actions, according to the Baltimore News Journal. "If this had been an actual emergency, the affected customers would have been notified immediately," the report said.

Haloacetic acids are a category of disinfection byproduct, according to the EPA. They are "a group of chemicals that are formed along with other disinfection byproducts when chlorine or other disinfectants used to control microbial contaminants in drinking water react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter in water."  

Regulated haloacetic acids, known as HAA5, include monochloroacetic acid, dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, monobromoacetic acid, and dibromoacetic acid.

Consumers seem unsure how to proceed, the ABC report found. Jen Colbert of Lutherville, who has a water filter under her sink, said, “I don't want to spend the money on buying bottled water but I definitely don't trust drinking it directly from the faucet."

For more on disinfection byproducts visit Water Online’s Disinfection Solution Center

Image credit: "Winter 2010: The Baltimore Harbor at Night," © 2010 oddmenout, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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