UI Water Quality Update, effective may 2017

What is the latest information on the UI water testing and results?

  • Current THM levels are within the acceptable range at all campus locations. 
  • April sample results were between 0.038 mg/L to 0.044 mg/L.  The annual average limit for THM in drinking water and bottled water is 0.080 mg/L.
  • The sample result at the Hawkeye Campus was 0.044 and while that is within the standard, it was not low enough to bring the annual average for that location below 0.080 mg/L, and so notification is required.  The annual average results for TTHM at all other campus locations were below the 0.080 standard.

 

What is being done?

  • System flushing started on Feb 7, and has proven successful in immediately lowering the THM level in the water system. 
  • On March 28, a carbon filtration system was installed as an additional step in the water treatment process. Carbon filtration will remove organic material from the water prior to chlorination, removing the constituents that produce THM. A similar carbon filtration method is used in the Iowa City Water Plant, where it was recently shown to also be effective in removing neonicotinoids, a popular farm pesticide,  from drinking water. We expect the similar results.
  • Final bidding documents have been approved for the permanent reverse osmosis filtration system that will be installed in the water plant.  A reverse osmosis filtration system will remove the organic material that causes THM. 

 

Pictured below, Carbon Filtration Unit installed and online March 28, 2017

Carbon filtration unit Carbon filtration unit




What should I do?
There is nothing you need to do at this time.

Are the hospital, Oakdale campus, IRL, also supplied by the UI water system?
University of Iowa Health Care is supplied by the UI water system. The Oakdale/UI Research Park Campus and IRL are not served by the UI water system.

A recent study detected neonicotinoids in the UI drinking water, is this harmful and what is being done about it?
This study and water sampling were completed before the UI installed its new carbon filtration system on March 28, 2017. A similar carbon filtration method is used in the Iowa City Water Plant, where it was recently shown to be effective in removing neonicotinoids, a popular farm pesticide, from drinking water. We expect similar results. The reverse osmosis system will help to further remove any trace contaminants.

The study, published by UI researchers in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey, detected three types of neonicotinoids, a popular farm pesticide, in samples of UI drinking water taken between May and July 2016. Concentrations were very small and ranged from 0.24 to 57.3 nanograms per liter on a scale of parts per trillion. Gregory LeFevre, a study author and UI environmental engineer, said in a Washington Post article, that this is a really small concentration roughly equivalent to a single drop of water in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools. The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet defined safe levels of neonicotinoids in drinking water and further, more comprehensive assessments of water supplies in other parts of the country are needed.


What agency sets the guidelines for safe drinking water standards and how often is testing conducted?
The EPA establishes the Safe Drinking Water Standards and the Iowa DNR administers the Public Drinking Water Program in Iowa under delegation of authority from the EPA. Testing is conducted by UI Water Plant staff several times a year in various locations.  A rolling year-long average of those results is used to determine compliance. Testing is done at the State Hygienic Lab.

Is the City of Iowa City water supply affected?
The City of Iowa City Water Plant is a separate system from the University of Iowa Water Plant; however, they use a similar carbon filtration method as the one recently installed on campus.

What happened?
The UI received notice on Feb. 7 that its water system exceeded the standard, or maximum contaminant level for TTHM.  The TTHM standard for drinking water and bottled water is 0.080 mg/L.  Trihalomethanes are a byproduct of the water treatment process that form when chlorine, added to the water during the treatment process for disinfection, reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in the water.  Above normal winter temperatures and rainfall resulted in record levels of naturally occurring organic material in the Iowa River earlier this year.  Due to the elevated organic levels, additional chlorination was needed to make the drinking water safe.  The combination of high organic levels and additional chlorination can result in high levels of TTHM.

 

For more information, please contact:

Ben Fish, Associate Dir, Utility Operations
319-384-0528
ben-fish@uiowa.edu

Wendy Moorehead, FM Communications
319-335-1246
wendy-moorehead@uiowa.edu

 

email sent to all ui faculty, staff and students may, 2017

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR DRINKING WATER

UNIVERSITY WATER SYSTEM Has Levels of Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM)
Above Drinking Water Standards

The University of Iowa recently received notice that its water system violated a drinking water standard. Although this is not an emergency, as our customers, you have a right to know what happened, what you should do, and what we are doing to correct this situation.

We routinely monitor for the presence of drinking water contaminants.  Testing results we received on May 5, 2017, show that our system exceeds the standard, or maximum, contaminant level (MCL), for total trihalomethanes (TTHM). The EPA standard for total TTHM is 0.080 mg/L. The average level of TTHM over the last year in the UI system was 0.075 to 0.091mg/L.

Please note: the April sample results for all campus locations were well within the standard for TTHM, ranging from 0.038 mg/L to 0.044 mg/L.  The sample result at the Hawkeye Campus was 0.044.  The result at the Hawkeye Campus, while currently meeting standard, was not low enough to bring the annual average for that location below 0.080 mg/L, and so notification is required.  The annual average results for TTHM at all other campus locations were below the 0.080 standard.

What should I do?
There is nothing you need to do at this time.

What happened?
Trihalomethanes are a byproduct of the water treatment process that form when chlorine, added to the water during the treatment process for disinfection, reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in the water.  Above normal winter temperatures and rainfall resulted in record levels of naturally occurring organic material in the Iowa River earlier this year.  Due to the elevated organic levels, additional chlorination was needed to make the drinking water safe.  The combination of high organic levels and additional chlorination can result in high levels of TTHM.

What is being done?

  • Water system flushing began in February 2017
  • Carbon Filtration unit was installed late March 2017
  • Reverse osmosis filtration system planned to be online in next 18 months
  • Quarterly testing will continue

 

A water system flushing program has been in place since early February, and weekly water testing has indicated that this program has been successful in reducing TTHM by reducing the residence time of water in the distribution piping. 

A carbon filtration unit was installed at the UI Water Plant in late March to remove the organic material as water came into the plant from the Iowa River.  The operation of this carbon filtration unit has been successful at reducing TTHM, and has resulted in reducing TTHM such that the annual average is below the standard on the UI main campus.

The combination of water system flushing and carbon filtration has significantly reduced TTHM levels in the system.  Results were not low enough, however to bring the annual average back below 0.080 mg/L at the Hawkeye Tennis and Rec sample point.

In October of 2015, the UI requested permission from the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, to proceed with project planning for a reverse osmosis filtration system to address high nitrate levels in the Iowa River. This system, which will also reduce the organic matter that causes the formation of TTHM’s, is in the design phase for installation and is expected to be on-line in the next 18 months.  Long term, this reverse osmosis system will ensure compliance with TTHM standards.

Which buildings are served by the UI water system?
The University Water System provides drinking water for most buildings on the main UI campus in Iowa City, including UIHC, the Hawkeye Campus, and the medical research campus. It does not provide water to the UI Research Park, University Capitol Center, or those served by City of Iowa City water system.

What does this mean?
The EPA states there is no immediate risk. However, some people who drink water-containing trihalomethanes in excess of the MCL over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, or central nervous system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.

For more information, please contact: Ben Fish, UI Facilities Management
319-384-0528
ben-fish@uiowa.edu

This notice is being sent to you by UNIVERSITY WATER SYSTEM,  PWSID #5225101 
Date distributed:       5/16/2017