Most of us assume that our city water supply will be safe and clean, but we don’t tend to ask how this is accomplished. Municipal utilities dose water supplies with disinfectant to kill any pathogenic bacteria including e-Coli. This is usually in the form of chlorine or chloramine, but this may produce unpleasant effects that are hidden from the average consumer.

The Disinfection Process

Municipal utility companies cannot allow bacteria, viruses, and pathogens to remain in water supplies. The levels of these contaminants are regulated and monitored by the EPA and companies can face penalties if higher than acceptable levels are detected. Chlorine has been used for water disinfection for many years, but some utility companies are switching over to chloramine, which is a chlorine ammonia mixture. The levels of disinfectant are calculated to provide a residual amount remaining in the water. This is because the water will need to travel through miles of pipes between the treatment facility and our homes. When the bacteria count is higher, heavier doses of disinfectant are used. This can result in a swimming pool like smell, but this is not the only problem.

The Problems with Disinfection

Whether chlorine or chloramine is used, one of the by-products of disinfection is THMs or trihalomethanes. Research shows that chloramine does not produce as many contaminants as chlorine, but it can create its own problems.

Although not considered a human health concern, chloramines can create an undesirable odor and taste to water supplies. Unfortunately, chloramine is toxic to both fish and amphibians as it has direct bloodstream contact. For this reason, if you are on dialysis, you will need to remove any traces of chloramine from your water supply.

Researchers are still trying to analyze and test the implications of THMs as there are now hundreds that have been detected. The long term exposure to some THMs has been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer, particularly bladder cancer. THMs have also been linked to an increased risk of heart diseases and infant birth delivery problems. As a result of these issues, the EPA has set a maximum contaminant level for Total THMs of 80 parts per billion in drinking water supplies. < Protecting Your Family

If you do want to ensure that your family is not exposed to THMs, you may wish to consider a final barrier of protection. The most effective way to eliminate THMs in your water supply is a charcoal filter. Activated charcoal also provides an effective method to remove any traces of chloramine. Although there are under counter and filter pitcher devices available, there is some research to suggest that chloramines and THMs may be absorbed through the skin. This means that the best form of protection is a whole house filtration system.

If you have concerns about THMs, chlorine or chloramine in your water supply, you should speak to a water treatment professional. A fully WQA certified technician can test the contaminant levels in your water supply and guide you through all the treatment options that meet or possibly exceed the industry standards.

By Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska. 

With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative.  Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.