UI Water Quality Update, effective March 29, 2017

 

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

  • Current THM levels are within the acceptable range. 
  • System flushing started on Feb 7, and has proven successful in immediately lowering the THM level in the water system. 
  • Weekly THM sample results in March were between 0.031-0.057 mg/L.  The annual average limit for THM in drinking water and bottled water is 0.080 mg/L.

 

What is being done now?

  • 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 esults.
  • 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.  The reverse osmosis system project is expected to go for bidding in early April, with system start-up in 18 months.

 

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

Carbon filtration unit Carbon filtration unit



Does this mean the UI water system is now back in compliance?
Compliance is determined by a rolling average of samples taken over a year-long period. The level of organic material in the Iowa River during winter 2016-17 is the highest we have ever experienced during a winter period.  Trihalomethanes (TTHM) 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. Due to averaging of samples, it is possible another notice regarding high TTHM levels would need to be issued later this spring even though current water quality meets the standard.

Is the water safe to drink or should people consider drinking bottled water or using a bottle filling station?
There is no need to take additional individual measures, such as drinking bottled water or using a bottle filling station. However, if you have specific health concerns, please contact your health care professional. Many people have asked about the bottle filling stations on campus – a typical carbon filtration units such as bottle filling stations, are around 90% efficient at removal of TTHM.

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.  The range of annual averages for TTHM over the past year in the UI system was 0.033 to 0.095 mg/L.

 

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 on Feb 07, 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 February 1, 2017, show that our system exceeds the standard, or maximum, contaminant level (MCL), for total trihalomethanes. The standard for total trihalomethanes is 0.080 mg/L. The average level of total trihalomethanes over the last year in our system was 0.081 to 0.110 mg/L.

What should I do?

  • You do not need to use an alternative (e.g., bottled) water supply. Disease prevention specialists with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics say special precautions are not necessary. However, if you have specific health concerns, consult your doctor.

What does this mean?
This is not an immediate risk. If it had been, you would have been notified immediately. 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.

What happened? What is being done?
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 have increased the amount of naturally occurring organic material in the Iowa River, resulting in the need for additional chlorination. The additional chlorine used to make the water safe to drink leads to higher TTHM levels.

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.

In the short term, flushing of fire hydrants will be performed to lower the residence time of water in the distribution system, reducing the amount of time available for TTHM's to form.
Please be aware, however, that the level of TTHM's in the water is calculated based on quarterly samples over the previous 12 months. There is a possibility that even with reduced TTHM levels, the 12-month average may remain at or above the MCL until enough quarterly samples have been taken to lower the average.

For more information, please contact:

Wendy Moorehead, UI Facilities Management
319-3351246
wendy-moorehead@uiowa.edu

This notice is being sent to you by UNIVERSITY WATER SYSTEM, PWSID #5225101
Date distributed:2/9/2017