Chemicals found in Youngstown-area water supply, but pose little risk, experts say

Meander Reservoir. Sept. 18, 2015
The Meander Reservoir. High levels of the chemical trihalomethane have been found in the drinking water, which comes from this lake. Sept. 18, 2015

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown Water customers continue to receive notices about the quality of their water. That includes residents of Austintown Township, Canfield Township and parts of Boardman Township.

Elevated levels of potentially harmful chemicals have been found in the water supply for the Youngstown water district, but do not pose a significant health risk to customers, Youngstown Water Division Chief Engineer Gene Leson confirmed to WKBN on Friday.

Leson said that the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District found the elevated levels of trihalomethanes during scheduled quarterly testing. The Youngstown Water Division sent the letters to customers since they sell the water, Leson said.

Leson said that in his 32 years with the division, this is the first time he has had to send out a letter warning of any kind of contamination.

City resident Lisa Fitzgerald-Green is concerned though. Both her mother and son have leukemia. “I thought as first maybe it was something genetic,” says Fitzgerald-Green. “Mom and my son, that makes sense, it could be genetic. There could be something wrong that made them both have this. But I also thought it was something around my house.”

The notice indicates that trihalomethanes consumed in large and continued quantities could cause cancer, but it doesn’t specify what cancers you could be at risk of getting.

Mayor John McNally says there’s no danger in consuming the water. “The presence of this one particular chemical with much, much, much, much, much higher levels might be a particular issue. But what we’re talking about now is not a health concern, but we’re required to put people on notice about it.”

Anthony Vigorito, chief engineer of the MVSD, said the levels are typically higher during warm weather. Adjustments were made at the water treatment plant and levels are already reduced.

Vigorito said the water is safe for consumption and if customers have any concerns, a simple Brita-type water filter would remove 99 percent of trihalomethanes from the water, but is not necessary.

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