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Cedar Grove water shows high levels of pollutant

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A second Upper Kanawha Valley water plant is having trouble maintaining federal clean water standards.

Last week, the town of Cedar Grove published its annual water quality report for the water plant. The plant supplies water to about 2,800 customers in Cedar Grove, Glasgow and East Bank.

The report showed levels of haloacetic acids in the town's drinking water of almost 77 parts per billion, well above the allowable limit of 60 parts per billion set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Anita Ray, environmental health director for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said she wasn't surprised by the findings. Ray said smaller municipal water plants typically have a difficult time meeting federal clean water standards.

"You're going to see more violations come up because the EPA has tightened the water quality standards," Ray said. "They're going to be testing for things they maybe never tested before."

In June, residents of Pratt received notices about Pratt's city-run water plant exceeding the legal level of haloacetic acid during the preceding year. Cedar Grove customers also received notices that the acid levels were above EPA limits.

Haloacetic acids are a byproduct of the water chlorination process that can occur when chlorine used to treat water reacts with organic matter such as decayed leaves or vegetation. Longtime exposure to elevated levels of haloacetic acids is believed to increase the risk for cancer, and may damage the liver, kidneys, eyes, nervous system and reproductive system.

However, Cedar Grove water plant manager Kenneth Barton said, a person would have to drink 2 liters of acid-contaminated water every day for 100 years to see a significant increase in their chance of getting cancer.

Barton, who has run the Cedar Grove water plant since about 1978, said he is taking steps to reduce the haloacetic acid levels in Cedar Grove's water. He said the acid levels are based on an average of four quarterly water tests.

"We've had quarters where we were way below the average, and there have been times when we're over," he said. "It's an ongoing thing that happens all the time."

Even so, Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy is asking county officials to look into Cedar Grove's water quality.

"I take this very seriously," Hardy said. "I think it's clear that all these municipal water systems need to stay within the federal limits."

Ray said water plants weren't required to test for haloacetic acids until 2004. But she said independently run water plants will have a harder and harder time meeting federal standards as equipment ages and standards are tightened.

"It's just really tough for these small water systems," she said.

Many officials think the only way small systems like Cedar Grove can continue to meet federal water quality guidelines is to turn over their operations to larger outfits like West Virginia American Water. "The time of these stand-alone water companies is past," said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper.

Barton disagrees.

"I don't see any reason why we would have to turn it over to West Virginia American Water," he said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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