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U.S. EPA Orders Calaveras County Water District to Remove Chemical From Drinking Water

Release Date: 6/5/2003
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano (415) 947-4307

SAN FRANCISCO - Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Calaveras County Water District to develop a treatment plan to eliminate a disinfection byproduct from drinking water treated by the Ebbetts Pass Water System and notify the public that the chemical has been detected in samples at the Avery Calif. facility.
    The EPA promulgated new disinfection byproduct regulations in January 2002  to protect public health from potentially harmful byproduct chemicals formed when chlorine reacts with natural organic compounds during the treatment process.  This is the first action taken by the EPA in California under the agency's new regulations.

     "Chemical  byproducts in treated drinking water need to be monitored, reported and reduced to meet federal health standards," said Catherine Kuhlman, EPA's water division director for the Pacific Southwest region.  "Public drinking water systems have a responsibility to notify the public of what chemicals have been detected in their drinking water and then take action to remove them."
    The byproduct chemical detected in the Ebbetts Pass Water System is haloacetic acid, a potential carcinogen if ingested over a 30 year lifetime period.  Although detected in trace amounts over the federal drinking water standard, the district is required to monitor and notify the public when detection goes above health-based standards.  The drinking water standard for haloacetic acid is 60 parts-per-billion, the Ebbetts system had a range from 66 to 70 parts-per-billion.
     The District was required to monitor the Ebbetts Pass Water System for this chemical on a quarterly basis.  The EPA believes the District violated the standard from January 1  to December 31, 2002, and between April 1, 2002 to March 31, 2003.

     The Calaveras County Water District and the Ebbetts Pass Treatment plant have already hired a consultant to develop a plan and treatment methods to reduce disinfection byproducts to below federal standards.
     The EPA has worked closely with the California Department of Health Services which administers most of the Safe Drinking Water program in the State.  However, the state has not yet obtained primary enforcement responsibility for the new byproduct regulations.
    The Disinfection and Disinfection Byproduct rules currently regulate surface water systems serving ten thousand or more customers.  Phased implementation of smaller as well as groundwater systems will occur in 2004.
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