Town officials: Water treatment plant fell out of compliance
By Alex Bridges
Drinking water remains safe in Front Royal despite a recent violation in the treatment process, according to town officials.
The town's water treatment plant fell out of compliance with guidelines, a press release issued Monday stated.
"This is not a boil-water notice," Town Manager Steven Burke said. "It's a summary of testing that occurred and, based on our permits, when we determined that the precursor information was out of compliance, that is followed up by a notification."
Front Royal sent individual notices to water customers via their monthly bills, most of which went out late last month, according to Burke.
"Again, it's not a time-critical notice," Burke said. "The testing indicates that there might be a concern - not that there is one but there might be - and that, based on all the other testing, that there was no health effect."
The Virginia Department of Health advised the town of the violation Nov. 2 and required Front Royal to send notices to the public by Dec. 2, according to Mike Kisner, manager for the water treatment plant.
"We expect no health problems to stem from the issue," Charles J. Devine III, health director for the Lord Fairfax Health District, stated in an email Monday.
The VDH's Office of Drinking Water monitors facilities such as the plant in Front Royal. Local health departments and the district respond if an issue arises that presents a threat to public health, according to Devine.
"This situation does not present such a threat," Devine stated.
Customers don't need to switch to alternatives such as bottled water. However, people with specific health concerns should consult a doctor, according to the release.
Those with severely compromised immune systems, infants and some elderly users may face an increased risk and should seek advice from a health care provider about drinking water.
Town officials anticipate they can resolve the matter within the next few months. Officials are examining the town's water treatment processes to maximize the removal of chemicals blamed for the violation, according to the release. Town officials may consider adjusting the rates at which the plant adds chemicals at certain points in the process. The town also may try using alternative treatment chemicals, the release states.
The town routinely monitors the drinking water for the presence of disinfection byproducts and materials, also called precursors, that cause their formation, according to Burke.
Testing results received by the town Oct. 12 showed the system did not meet the required precursor percentage removal ratio for the October 2011 to September 2012 compliance period, according to the release.
The town waterworks must show a removal ratio of 1.0 or greater. However, the system's average removal ratio for the period fell to 0.93, the town reported.
Precursors are naturally occurring organic matter in the water that reacts with the chlorine used in the treatment process and forms disinfection byproduct chemicals. Measuring the water's total organic carbon level determines the amount of the precursors presence. Total organic carbon does not affect health but may interfere with the disinfection process by increasing the potential for the formation of byproducts, according to the release.
As the release explained, the town must collect and analyze six samples of both raw and treated water for total organic carbon levels each quarter in the calendar year. Test results are averaged to determine the removal ratios in the calendar quarter and then with the previous three quarters to calculate the running average ratio, according to the release.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water hotline at 1-800-426-4791 can provide information on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org