CLIFTON PARK — Despite a recent notice about the presence of contaminants in their water supply that went to a number of Clifton Park Water Authority customers, the chemicals never presented a health risk to consumers, state and water authority officials have said.
Just over 2,000 CPWA customers received a letter from the authority in early January informing them that levels of Haloacetic acids (HAAs) found in a November sampling of the water supply were higher than the federally acceptable levels.
The affected CPWA customers live north of Ushers Road. They receive water that CPWA purchases from the Saratoga County Water Authority, which uses the upper Hudson River as its source. CPWA customers in the southern end of the company’s service area receive water from the Boyack Treatment Plant or Berry Farm Treatment Plant. Those water sources have lower levels of organic matter, and therefore are less susceptible to contamination.
There were 63.5 micrograms per liter of the chemical in the sample, slightly above the standard limit of 60 micrograms per liter.
The HAA concentration has since fallen below federal limits, Don Austin of CPWA said. The notice sent to residents states that, while the chemical levels exceeded the standard limit, the water was still safe to drink and use.
Prolonged consumption of water that contains HAAs can lead to an increased risk of cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
The HAAs are a byproduct of the water disinfectant process, according to the state Department of Health. Chlorine, which is added to the water to kill bacteria, can react with organic material from rivers and lakes, leading to increased levels of HAA, said Gary Holmes, spokesman for the Health Department.
The CPWA takes routine quarterly water samples to monitor chemical levels, according to Austin. Once the authority discovered the elevated HAAs in November, that sample was sent to the Department of Health for lab testing.
Lab results confirmed the HAA level, and the state sent a violation notice to the water authority in early January. The authority then informed residents, as public notices of elevated HAA levels are a requirement of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
“We sent out notices immediately upon receiving the notice [from the state],” Austin said. Holmes confirmed the company was well within the 30-day window allowed for publicly announcing such chemical violations.
This is the first time water authority has been in violation of the HAA standard, said Austin. The water found to have the eleveated HAA levels provided by the Saratoga County Water Authority. But HAA contamination is not common, he added.
“The SCWA had been doing a very good job at keeping these contaminants in check over the past few years, but some environmental factors this fall likely played a part in the higher results we saw in the November samples,” Austin said. He noted that the two water authorities will meet next week to discuss what can be done in the future to prevent further violations.
Ed Hernandez, executive director of SCWA, did not know why the samples CPWA took in November had elevated levels of HAAs. He confirmed that the amount of chlorine used in the water disinfection process can lead to increased HAAs, and said that many water companies could see similar fluctuations in water depending on many factors, including the weather and the season.
As soon as SCWA was notified of the November sample results, Hernandez said, the authority tested their water supply and the results came back normal.
“We’re working with Clifton Park to try to ensure this doesn’t happen again by monitoring chlorine levels,” Hernandez said.
He noted that November was the first time a customer of SCWA was out of compliance since 2014.
Holmes called the HAA standard violation a “blip on the radar,” and noted many municipalities experience small chemical elevations in their water supplies.
“It’s easy to rectify with oversight,” he said, adding that the town water authority is making operational changes to the water disinfection process as a result of the HAA violation.
Residents have the option of using charcoal-based water filtration devices that will take out disinfection products in water, according to the Health Department and the Clifton Park Water Authority.
“It is not recommended that residents use a carbon filter to filter all water entering the home, as that can lead to other issues like smelly water from a lack of chlorine,” Austin said. “If a customer wants to ensure that they are filtering all disinfection byproducts from the water they drink, they can install point-of-use carbon filters on a faucet, or use a pitcher with a built-in carbon filter.”
Town Supervisor Phil Barrett was one of the residents who received the water notice.
“I drink the water every day. I had no concerns upon receiving the notice,” he said. While he acknowledged that receiving such a notice could be alarming, he added that the water screening process is thorough.
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