Selectmen asked to take action on water change
KENNEBUNK — Following the announcement by the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Wells Water District (KKWWD) that it would begin adding monochloramine to the local water supply starting April 10, Penwood Drive resident James Trentalange appeared before Kennebunk selectmen April 11 to ask what, if anything, they might do about it.
Selectmen listened to Trentalange, but said there was little they could do. Selectmen Christopher Cluff went so far as to advise Trentalange of when water district trustees meet — at 3 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month.
“They have much more control over this than we do,” Cluff said. “Certainly you’re welcome to share your comments with us, but we’re not the governing body for what they put in the water.”
“I don’t think Chris’ intent is to say we don’t have any responsibility,” Selectmen Ed Karytko added. “If it affects the health and welfare of the citizens of this town, then we will have something to say about it.”
To that end, board Chairman Dick Morin asked Trentalange to submit whatever information he had on chloramines to Town Manager Michael Pardue.
Trentalange said his concern is for the potential health hazards of monochloramine, one of three chloramines made by mixing chlorine with ammonia. Under certain conditions, those components can break apart, he said.
“In a hot shower, the ammonium creates an inhalant that can kind of irritate you. How many people around here take hot showers? Maybe down south this is OK, but maybe here not so much.”
Trentalange also noted that unlike chlorine, monochloramine does not dissipate from water — one reason for its use, because it makes for a longer-lasting disinfecting agent as water moves through pipes to consumers. To remove mono chloramine requires a full filtration system.
“That’s a concern for us because we bake bread,” Trentalange said, adding that, “breweries would not locate here because of that in the water.”
A notice sent to customers by the water district said that others potentially affected by chloraminated water include kidney dialysis patients, anyone utilizing hydroponic applications, and fish owners, the latter because fish cannot process the monochloramine.
According to water district Superintendent Norm Labbe, the water district put monochlorine in the water supply from 2004 to 2010, but stopped because of mineral buildup in the hot water systems of some commercial customers, such as restaurants, which suffered from frequently clogging dishwashers. Labbe’s notice to water district customers said that problem will be avoided by using liquid ammonia, rather than infusing a gaseous form, as done previously.
The main reason for adding monochloramine back in to the water supply, he said, is because water companies on either side of the water district do — in fact, it’s in the public water in all systems from Portland to York, he said — which will make it easier to buy and sell water with neighboring utilities. The monochloramine, in use in Portland since 1938, also carries less of a odor then water sanitized using chlorine.
Labbe wrote that ingesting chloraminated water is okay, even for young children and pregnant woman.
“The Centers for Disease Control reports that using or drinking water with chloramine levels less than 50 parts per million does not cause harmful health effects,” Labbe wrote.
The water district will add about 0.34 parts per million of ammonia and about 1.66 parts per million of chlorine to make 2.0 parts per million of monochloramine.
But Trentalange, a dentist with an office on Route 1 in Arundel, who was on the opposing, and ultimately losing side in last year’s vote to remove fluoride from the water supply, recalled to selectmen that the water district had appeared to discount CDC numbers on fluoride, even as they now cite the centers as a source on monochloramine safety.
“The water district seems to be using recommendations from the CDC whenever they feel it’s comfortable for them,” he said, adding that chloramines, “can leach out some of the lead from older water pipes.”
According to a notice on the water district website, the creation of monochloramine in the water supply actually began April 17 as part of the water district’s spring flushing program.
“This coordination will help ensure an efficient system-wide conversion to chloramines,” the notice read. “Customers nearest the Branch Brook Filtration Plant and in particular those from downtown Kennebunk and southerly into Wells should notice a reduction in chlorine taste and odor within a day or two. Most customers should notice the difference within a week or two.”
The water district asks that any questions about chloamination of the water supply should be directed to the district filtration plant by calling 985-2362.
Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at email@example.com.