|Updated: 7/11/2012 9:06 am
||Published: 7/11/2012 8:40 am
If you live in Tulsa or a handful of surrounding suburbs you'll soon have small amounts of a new chemical in your water.
Tulsa will soon start adding chloramine to your water as part of tighter EPA standards to kill more cancer-causing agents in the water supply.
But chloramine is a controversial chemical, and many claim it can be toxic.
Chloramine is a gas formed by mixing ammonia with chlorine. Chlorine is already used as a disinfectant in Tulsa's water supply.
"We've been using chlorine for as long as we've been treating water in Tulsa," Joan Arthur, Engineering Services for the City of Tulsa, said.
Chloramine may be new to Tulsa, but it's been used in cities like Denver and St. Louis since the 1920s and 1930s.
"It's used in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Oklahoma City, Norman, Sand Springs in our immediate area," Arthur said.
Last fall FOX23 News talked to Jay Fleming, who had some concerns about chloramine.
"I think the biggest concern was the lead leaching out of the pipes," Fleming said.
Several studies have indicated chloramine can break down lead in pipes, and release more of it into the water flow. But Arthur said her team has tested how chloramine would interact with lead in several different types of pipes found throughout Tulsa's water system.
"The corrosion actually was lower with the chloraminated water than it was with our existing water," Arthur said. "So, we feel that issues with household plumbing won't be a concern."
Like many, Fleming was also worried chloramine could cause serious health problems like skin irritation, respiratory problems and digestive issues. But Arthur said there isn't much validity to such claims.
"There really isn't any research that shows that chloramines used in the concentrations in drinking water have any negative effects," she said.
Concentration of ammonia is the central issue when it comes to chloramine. When people come into contact with high concentrations of ammonia those health concerns are likely to be an issue. But Arthur said the concentration the city will be inserting into the water is too small to cause a difference. In fact, she said the concentration is the equivalent of adding a teaspoon of ammonia to an Olympic sized swimming pool. That, she said, is lower than concentrations that naturally occur in the body.
"The concentration in the water is actually lower than is in perspiration, or is in a lot of just normal food products; even an apple," she said.
Many have also voiced concerns about the effects of chloramine on kidney patients undergoing dialysis. But most, if not all, dialysis clinics in the area are already prepared for those issues.
"Each dialysis facility, and specifically St. John, have excellent water purification systems," Dr. Irfan Kundi, head of the dialysis unit with St. John Medical Center, said. "And our water purification systems test for both chlorine and chloramine. And we've been doing it from day one."
"If the [tests] do turn positive, which has not happened, we don't dialyze those patients and we move them to a different dialysis facility."
Fleming said after doing his own research, his fears and concerns about chloramine have largely dissipated. In fact, he said he thinks many of the alarming information about chloramine he found online appears to have come from sources with a vested interest.
"A lot of it was hype in order to line pockets of attorneys just so they could have lawsuits," he said.
He now says he has complete faith in Arthur and the decisions her department has made regarding chloramine.
"I don't see why she would put her own family at risk and why she would put someone else's family at risk," he said.
One group that will need to take extra protective measures against chloramine is those who keep fish tanks or fish ponds. Chloramine can be toxic to fish. But most pet stores sell chemicals fish owners can use to treat the water that neutralize the chloramine.
The city's water department is running final tests on the ammonia injection system, but chloramine will be flowing through faucets by the end of July.