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What's a Water Drinker to Do?

With so much controversy surrounding the Milford water, this article hopes to educate and empower readers to understand and become involved in changing the future.

A year is a long time for a company to have a known environmental and health issue. The posts regarding the prolonged Milford Water Company contaminants and the has heightened many people’s awareness of the issue, caused some to serve pets bottled water and prompted many to ask my health advice.

The water company has had many calls for individual house testing following the reported elevated TTHM levels. Although the state Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has Milford Water Company “on their radar,” testing our water more frequently than the regulated quarterly testing, our water is not passing the standards.

Water infiltrates everything. We drink it alone or use it to make Koolaide, formula, coffee, ice, etc... We boil it (which releases gases) and add it to recipes. We bath and shower in it. Our town uses the water for restaurants, at the Milford Whitinsville Medical Center, and in the six schools (whose water was tested the end of last week, with results pending.)

As a consumer, I admit it: I Google stuff. As a health coach and nurse practitioner I have clients who do the same, however some of their information is not trustworthy. I thought it would be helpful to give Patch readers accurate information about these contaminants.

So, what is TTHM?  According to the EPA website (and the letter sent to me when my water was tested and showed elevated levels) TTHM is a group of four trihalomethanes. It is a byproduct of chlorine disinfection which combines with organic matter.  The levels will vary with the amount of organic matter (such as vegetation in the water from Echo Lake), temperature, the amount of chlorine added, and the season.

This made a lot of sense when I spoke to about the elevated levels of TTHMs. He told me the high levels were due to his goal to "never wanted to have another boil water order." However, I didn’t think I would be writing another article in late September about the same health concern.

The four trihalomethanes are Cancer Group B carcinogens (shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals) according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The EPA’s website stated health effects from ingestion of TTHM’s in water can lead to an increased risk of cancer, liver, kidney and central nervous system problems.

The U.S. EPA has not conducted a cancer assessment for the TTHMs as a group. However, each of the four trihalomethanes has been individually evaluated for carcinogenicity, according to the Mass.gov website:

  • Bromodichloromethane is likely to be carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure.
  • Bromoform is likely to be carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure.
  • There is suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity but not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential for dibromochloromethane.
  • Chloroform is likely to be carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure under high-dose conditions that lead to cytotoxicity and regenerative hyperplasia in susceptible tissues.

The TTHMs have had the limelight, but according to the Milford Water Company’s Quality Report, Manganese levels are also well above the regulatory maximum level.  Manganese is naturally occurring in rocks and soil. It is a healthy ‘essential’ mineral (meaning our body does not make this and it is ‘essential’ that we get it from our environment or food). Illnesses involving the kidneys and urinary tract have been observed in laboratory rats fed very high levels of manganese, according to the ATSDR, but those levels aren’t comparable to levels listed in our water. 

Manganese is absorbed through inhalation, food, water, or our skin.  Manganese is an element and cannot be broken down but when ingested it leaves our bodies through excretion. When manganese is inhaled it can cause lung disorders entering the blood stream, crossing the blood brain barrier which can cause nervous system effects such as clumsiness, memory changes, behavior changes. The EPA has not determined whether or not excess manganese can cause cancer.

Dave Condrey told me this week the Milford Water Company is “installing an Activated Carbon Sandwich on our slow sand filters at Dilla Street by the end of October 2011 which we feel will help bring us back into compliance during the interim time for the new plant coming online in May 2013.”

Theoretically, drinking, cooking or showering in contaminated water for one year does not cause cancer and shouldn't cause kidney failure. However, what CAN we do to decrease risk until some of the proposed changes are made and our water drops into the regulatory safe human limits?

Empower your family to stay healthy by changing the everyday things you can control. There are five key elements to staying healthy: , a great diet, sleep, healthy relationships and detoxification.  Your family has the power to shop differently and purchase high quality food, drink and eat less sugar (did you know cancer thrives on sugar?), keep a healthy weight, exercise and sweat for a minimum of 30 minutes a day most days of the week (which helps to detox the body, decreases stress and weight and increase sleep quality).

People have approached me about an internal detoxification. There is conflicting medical research on this, but this is an opinion article and my take is that it only makes sense the two organs of the body responsible to clean the blood (liver and kidney) mentioned in the ATSDR reports should be cleaned out as we do our oil filter or dryer lint trap.

There is a lot of talk about the use of home, sink or fridge filtration systems as well as home delivery from commercial water companies. These systems would be paid for by the consumer (above and beyond the increased Milford Water bill). The water expert I spoke to suggested investigating all filtration products to ensure your money is spent on a product that is taking out the chemicals. This expert will be at the at the Milford Youth Center on Thursday.

Although something must be done, and fast, we need to look to the future and not dwell on the past year. Get involved, come to the meeting, write your congressmen, , eat well and exercise. 

Cappuccino September 26, 2011 at 10:55 PM
This is frightening. I guess we really can't rely on the Water Company, Local, State or Federal officials. Makes me want to dig my own well.
Jim Rizoli September 26, 2011 at 11:05 PM
Jim Rizoli CCFIILE.COM And they don't even mention the pharmaceuticals that end up in the water supply which are very had to detect and are even worse. http://www.alternet.org/environment/59305/
Lisa Vasile September 28, 2011 at 12:29 AM
Shirley, I am not one to say we can or can not rely on the Water Company or elected officials. I will say, there is a problem, it has gone on way too long, hasn't been fixed, and citizens should stop 1/2 reading paperwork sent by the company (and MassDEP) and push strongly to initiate changes as soon as possible...hence the meeting. Jim,Thank you for the link, but pharmaceuticals in the envrironment have nothing to do with the filtration system,TTHMs or Mangenese levels in the Milford water.
Dave September 28, 2011 at 05:21 AM
A Google alert brought me here - There are lots of options available to anyone who wants to take a few minutes to read through the lit cited page and the info on this website: http://www.slowsandfilter.org/ You mention slow sand filters . . . A properly functioning slow sand filter actually removes pathogens from water, unlike rapid sand filters with / chlorine or ozone combinations which only kill the pathogens thus leaving the excess organic material to form the THMs by reacting with the chlorine. The filters operating here don't need chlorine because they remove 99.9999 percent of all pathogens, and clear the water up enough to allow the use of a UV sterilizer for the uber-concerned . . . the result: no THMs, just water.
Tippy doodle doo September 30, 2011 at 11:23 AM
i would like to know how this affects some one with auto immune deficiencies. I have been on an antibiotic for the third time in a year and a half for small intestinal bacteria growth. And it is truly not a fun experience, when added to my other auto immune diseases I am struggling with.
Cappuccino September 30, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Lisa, thank you so much for your involvement in this problem. My husband attended meeting at the center and was very impressed. I, too have an autoimmune disease. I became very sick last year, the month before the revelation of contaminated water. Once I was aware of the water problem I drank only bottled water and was "cured". Coincidence? No way of knowing. There really is no way of obtaining a definative answer of how our water is affecting the young and the health compromised population.

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