Front Royal drinking water quality improved

Front Royal issued its annual Water Quality Assessment Report last week, and on the surface, it appears that the town’s water quality was improved from 2013.

Michael Kisner, director of the town’s water treatment plant, indicated that the town’s water quality is in a good place.

“I think, obviously, we’re doing a good job as far as … doing everything that we need to do to treat this water,” Kisner said, also noting the “good source water” the town uses is from the south Fork of the Shenandoah River.

Kisner also noted that the town’s annual water quality assessment reflects “anything detected” during the testing period for contaminants.

In other words, Kisner indicated that the reporting from year-to-year can actually represent fluctuations in certain water contaminants.

Overall, however, he said, “Everything that we detected is well below what the [Environmental Protection Agency] levels at.”

Fluoride, for example, was one contaminant that was reported well short of the EPA’s public health goal of 4.0 parts per million. Front Royal detected .77 ppm in its water supply in 2014.

“We try to maintain a fluoride level right around .70 and .80 ppm, so that fluctuates up and down,” Kisner said.

The same was true for the level of nitrates, with 1.17 ppm detected in 2014. EPA regulations call for 10 ppm of nitrate. Kisner added that nitrates are also a contaminant that can fluctuate from year-to-year.

Another contaminant that was detected below EPA regulations was trihalomethanes, a by-product of chlorine coming into contact with source water during treatment.

And although the town is well below what the EPA considers as dangerous, Kisner said the town is still looking at ways to decrease the amount in its water supply.

According to the EPA, high levels of trihalomethanes in water can result in “liver, kidney or nervous system problems” as well as increase the risk of cancer.

“The last year or two, we’ve actively pursued trying to drop these levels, and we have done that,” Kisner said.

One way the town has done that, according to Kisner, is to limit the amount of chlorine that comes in contact with the source water.

“We stopped putting chlorine in the initial raw water,” Kisner explained. “That allows us to settle out the organics prior to any chlorine coming into contact with it.”

The 2014 water quality report was released as the town is looking to complete new regulation-mandate upgrades and construction to its water treatment facility.

The upgrades will work to eliminate or contain certain contaminants caused by the treatment process, such as fluoride and trihalomethanes.

Kisner noted that the plant upgrades will also help the town have “better quality in the distribution system” as well as decreasing water age.

Water age – or the amount of time source water spends in a treatment system – is one of the underlying drivers of the prevalence of contaminants such as trihalomethanes, Kisner noted.

“The more water age you have, the higher some of these [contaminant] levels can get,” Kisner noted, explaining that temperature plays a big role.

During the hot summer months, Kisner said, “Warm water will stay at the bottom and the cool water on top” when it is in the treatment plant’s mixing tanks.

“What happens is … you’re basically drawing off the same water that you are putting in,” Kisner said.

Part of the new upgrades includes a new mixing system that will allow the town to better balance the mix between warm and cool water, especially during the summer.

This mixing system will also prevent chlorine from “sitting in the water that’s in the system for long periods of time,” Kisner added.

Kisner said the upgrades should, in turn, result in better “uniform water quality” that exits the treatment system. He noted that the town is expected to complete upgrades to its water treatment plant by Oct. 1.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com