City of Ithaca says Chlorite levels in water were too high, three weeks ago

Just over a year after widespread water quality issues had city residents in an uproar, Ithaca officials say the water system “violated the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for chlorite” on September 3.

Ithaca faced widespread brown water problems last summer. Photo courtesy of David McKinley.

According to a statement from Ithaca chief water plant operator Chuck Baker dated September 25, “The chlorine dioxide feed system was just started up late in August of this year. It is used as a pre-disinfectant to help with disinfection byproduct levels, taste and odor control, and for helping iron and manganese levels in the source water.” Iron and manganese levels were among the factors blamed for last summer’s brown tap water.

Baker says tests early on September 3 showed 1.1 mg/l of chlorite, over the maximum of 1.0, and then 1.03 later in the day. “Adjustments were made to the system each time” to bring the chlorite levels down, and levels were recorded at 0.75 mg/l later in the evening. “Our required follow up testing the next day out in the distribution system had levels all below 1.0 mg/l,” Baker says.

“We are experiencing some start up issues with the system and are continuing to work them out,” says Mr. Baker. “These issues are related to the feed pumps and priming issues along with maintaining a specific dosage and concentration strength.”

City officials say “This is not an emergency,” and area residents don’t have to do anything because of the chlorite levels. If it had been an emergency, “you would have seen notification immediately,” says Baker.

The City of Ithaca says it is required to share the Environmental Protection Agency’s “mandated language concerning chlorite:”

Some infants and young children who drink water containing chlorite in excess of the MCL could experience nervous system effects.  Similar effects may occur in fetuses of pregnant women who drink water containing chlorite in excess of the MCL.  Some people may experience anemia.

City officials suggest landlords post or distribute a notice for tenants.

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