Elevated chemical level detected in Salem water

SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) — A drinking water notice was recently issued for 6,900 customers of Salem Water Company after levels of total trihalomethanes, or TTHM, tested higher than the standard.

The average level for TTHM, which is a byproduct that forms when chlorine mixes with substances present in pre-treated water, over the past four quarters was 0.089 micrograms per liter of water, and the standard is 0.080 micrograms per liter. According to the Ohio EPA, these levels do not pose an immediate risk to someone’s health, but people who drink water containing TTHM over many years can experience problems with their liver, kidneys or central nervous system and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.

Salem Utilities Superintendent Donald Weingart said they’re working to resolve the issue.

“We have been working on the reduction of the Trihalomethanes for over a year. Right now, within this week, we should be giving plans for our first state of removal of the byproducts to the state of Ohio,” Weingart said.

Weingart said that the main reason this system tests higher than the standard level is because it has too much storage.

“I want to emphasize that the level detected does not pose an immediate threat to health,” Weingart said.

But it’s still concerning to one local business owner.

“To know that it’s a high level potentially something that’s not good for us, it does concern us because it’s part of our business and we feel the water quality in our world should be a very important thing,” said Mitch Lynch, co-owner of Friends Roastery coffee and tea shop on State Street.

He said the levels of TTHM in the water are troubling.

“I do understand and a couple of my customers have heard it before and I know the quality of the water is probably not an easy thing to take  care of, so I think as a community we should be concerned and try to help our government leaders come up with a plan that would get these levels lower,” Lynch said.

And in case anyone wonders how the state determined the standard level of disinfectant byproducts that is safe to consume, Ohio EPA officials said they implement the standards set at the federal level, which come from an advisory committee.  The U.S. EPA said it’s safer to drink water with chlorine byproducts like TTHM found in Salem’s water than to just consume pre-treated water.

They said the raw water contains micro-organisms that could be a danger to public health.

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