Among the chemicals and contaminants monitored as part of the extensive water testing performed by the New Brunswick Water Utility, Trihalomethanes (TTHM) levels are sampled quarterly.
TTHM’s are organic chemicals that can occur when chlorine used in the treatment process reacts with natural organic matter in water, creating a byproduct.
The standard for TTHM’s is 80 parts per billion. TTHM sampling is performed at eight sites in New Brunswick once per quarter and the results are averaged with the results of the preceding three quarters. If the rolling average of those four quarters exceeds 80 parts per billion, a violation is deemed to have occurred.
Unfortunately, samples taken in early August showed unusually high levels above 80 ppb, which when averaged with the previous three quarters resulted in violations at three of the eight test sites; Sears, the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the City’s Public Works building. The TTHM levels averaged at these three locations were 88.94 ppb, 80.82 ppb and 81.89 ppb, respectively. Please note that increased water temperature caused by higher than usual air temperature like we have experienced this summer can be a key factor in the formation of TTHM’s.
This was not an emergency and you need not take any action. However, we believe that the public should be fully informed as to what happened and what the City is doing to rectify the issue.
Immediately following the elevated readings from the August samplings, the Water Utility began implementing measures to reduce the potential to form TTHM’s. These include changes to its filtration and disinfectant process including increasing the amount of potassium permanganate that is added to the water at intake points in our source waterways. Potassium permanganate is another method of disinfection that, unlike chlorine, does not cause the reactions that lead to the formation of TTHM’s. This increase is being done in balance with adjusted chlorine levels to further reduce the formation of TTHM’s.
Follow-up testing has shown that TTHM levels have already significantly dropped at all three sites. The cooling change in the weather will also help to mitigate the formation of TTHM’s and the chlorine residual will be re-adjusted as temperatures dip to ensure no break in the quality of water treatment.
The City will continue to sample TTHM levels on a more frequent basis than that required by the DEP to monitor the effects of these changes.
Permanent infrastructure improvements are already in design and include the installation of new sedimentation basins and additional cell membrane filtration trains will also help to address this issue head on.
It is important to note that if TTHM levels continue to exceed the standard over a series of years, those who consume the water could be at higher risk of developing cancer or experiencing problems with their liver, kidneys or central nervous system.
While a more formal public notice will be released in the near future as is required by DEP standards, we wanted you to have this information while we await approval of the proposed formal notice by the DEP.
The City remains committed to delivering high-quality drinking water to all of its consumers. Anyone with questions about the quality of their drinking water may contact Jennifer Bradshaw, Public Information Officer for the City of New Brunswick at (732) 745-5004.