RUTLAND-For the 18,500 residents of Rutland City and Rutland Town using Rutland City's municipal water, the quality of their tap water will get a lot better after new filters are up and running sometime next year.
The city's Department of Public Works (DPW) began testing a series of its own experimental filters last week in the cool, damp subterranean piperoom inside the city water plant in Rutland Town.
The city's in-house "experiment," according to the DPW's Mike Garafino, will continue for several months.
While Rutland's water supply is completely safe and among the best tasting in the state - at least according to one website survey at www.usmayors.org - haloacetic acid (HAA) levels have been elevated in recent years. Federal and state water quality regulations require the city to lower HAA levels several part.
What are HAAs?
HAAs or Haloacetic acids are weak carboxylic acids, an altered form of organic acetic acid, also known as ethanoic acid, according to the EPA. Trace amounts of HAAs are also found in common cider vinegar. HAAs are the common organic by-products of chlorinating water. Only filtering chlorinated water will reduce HAA levels.
Most public works departments across the USA are dealing with the same issue - fluctuating levels of HAAs. In that sense, Rutland City's water isn't any different when compared to other chlorinated drinking waters.
At the city's water plant, Garafino is running a controlled experiment with the three test filters. And, he will collect water samples, several times a week, over the coming months.
An in-house chemical laboratory on the ground-floor of the water plant will be used for some of the testing while other testing parameters will by performed by an independent lab.
Long-term exposure to HAAs in drinking water has been associated, at least by some medical researchers, with bladder cancer. To date, these studies have not shown a definitive link between HAAs and cancer. Nore research is needed.
"As far as we know today, you have to drink a large amount of water with HAAs over a certain level over a long period of time," Garafino said. "But the EPA rules require us to reduce our levels and that's what we're doing."
Levels of HAAs in Rutland drinking water are not affected by either storing or boiling, but filtration - like the type Rutland DPW is testing - is effective in reducing HAAs.
Tests show the city's HAA levels between .063 and .065 although several years ago the levels were lower on their own.
Garafino said the city's HAA level is not a serious health risk, but a new filtration system will help reduce possible risks.
The test filters are actively filtering MendonBrook water - the source of Rutland's drinking supply - while chemical tests are being conducted to determine HAA levels.
Garafino said the tests will be conducted for a year or so although test levels already show a reduction.
The city is using $100,000 in federal taxpayer funds to conduct the test.
The three experimental filters, each one unique, were built in-house since it's not an off-the-shelf item that can be purchased from a supply catalog.
Local water experts like Garafino will determine which of the three units performs best.
Garafino said the city-made filters work using varying levels of sand and charcoal, each with a different sandwich combination of sand and activated charcoal materials.