Nfld. & Labrador

Worried about water quality, Town of Pasadena hires consultant

The community is one of dozens in N.L. grappling with drinking water that contains possible carcinogens.

Tap water contains levels of chlorination byproducts that exceed Health Canada recommendations

Pasadena has almost double the recommended amount of trihalomethanes in its drinking water. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The Town of Pasadena is taking steps to address concerns about the quality of its drinking water, as the community grapples with levels of trihalomethanes, or THMs, that well exceed Health Canada's guidelines.

"The town is working to find a solution. We're not exactly sure what that is going to be, but we are committed to reducing the levels of THMs in our water," said Deputy Mayor Terry Randall.

According to the latest provincial government test results, from March 2018, Pasadena averaged 175 micrograms of trihalomethanes per litre of water. Health Canada advises a maximum acceptable THM concentration of 100 micrograms per litre.

Trihalomethanes — including chloroform, a potential carcinogen — are byproducts that can form when chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water.

"Chloroform is considered to be a possible carcinogen in humans, based on limited evidence in experimental animals, and inadequate evidence in humans," reads a technical document about available trihalomethanes on Health Canada's website.

Pasadena has hired a consultant to study the problem, said Randall.

"It will be to look at the Pasadena water supply in general, and figure out what the issues are, exactly with our own water supply. And then we'll move forward on that," he told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning.

A provincewide problem

Pasadena is far from the only place in the province dealing with high levels of THMs.

About one-quarter of communities in Newfoundland and Labrador also exceed Health Canada's maximum, sometimes tripling or quadrupling it.

"If it exceeds about 100, we should be concerned about that," said Tahir Husain, a professor of environmental engineering at Memorial University who specializes in water filtration.

Pasadena is just one of the many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador with high levels of THMs in its drinking water.

However, Husain noted, small communities can't do much to avoid chlorinating their water in the first place, as it remains the standard for water disinfecting, with up to 97 per cent of the province's communities using it.

Husain said one possible solution he's been working on is a carbon filtration barrier system. That system would filter out natural organic matter in the water supply prior to chlorination, with the intended effect of reducing both organic matter and the need to chlorinate to the same extent.

"It has been very successful," in the trial stage, said Husain, who hopes to move to a wider-scale study in the future.

Randall said citizens are free to purchase water filters for their own supplies from home improvement stores, but in the meantime, "there is no need to discontinue drinking the town water."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Newfoundland Morning

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