Village to mitigate presence of potentially carcinogenic chemical

A student fills up a water bottle in the MacVittie College Union (pictured above). The Village of Geneseo discovered some presence of trihalomethanes in the local supply and is seeking to decrease the THM levels. (Theo Liu/Associate Photo Editor)

The Village of Geneseo plans to address trihalomethanes, which have been identified in small amounts in the Village‘s water supply. 

THMs are found in the Village’s water stores when chlorine is used as a disinfectant during the water filtration and treatment process. They primarily occur due to the interaction of chlorine and organic matter present in the water, and can exacerbate due to various other environmental factors, including temperature, according to the World Health Organization. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has set a limit of acceptable THM concentrations in water supplies to 80 parts per billion, with which Geneseo has encountered issues, according to Mayor of the Village of Geneseo Richard Hatheway. Various tests were carried out to test THM concentrations throughout 2016, and the concentrations came out to be over 80 ppb in two of the exam results, according to Hatheway.

Prior to these tests, the Village first tried to address the issues of THM presence in the water in 2014, according to Hatheway. 

“Four years ago, we undertook a process where we took the tank out of service, made a pipe, then the in-tank pipe up at the top,” Hatheway said. “The water comes in now up at the top, flushes down through and comes out at the bottom. That was supposed to help with this THM situation. It did decrease THMs somewhat, but not quite enough.” 

  The project to remove the chemical will be overseen by the Village, in collaboration with the architectural engineering firm the MRB Group, according to Hatheway.

Although the original testing indicated a presence of THMs, that testing was conducted last November and showed acceptable levels of THMs in the water, according to Hatheway.

 “I don’t want people to get alarmed that the water they’re drinking is bad water,”  Hatheway said. “It’s not at all. It meets [and] exceeds on all EPA standards on an annual basis and, if it wasn’t for the need to try to improve the water in the Town of Geneseo and in York, we wouldn’t be doing this project.”

The water is supplied from Conesus Lake, and there have been environmental concerns regarding phosphorus runoff from agricultural practices and algal blooms. This is unrelated to the current issue with THM presence, according to Hatheway. 

There has been research since 1993 examining the possibility of a link between THMs and cancer. Some studies suggest there is a relationship between the two, but the data has not been significant enough to prove a direct link between them, according to a 2005 WHO report. Long-term exposure can still prove to cause central nervous system depression and hepatotoxicity—liver damage from chemicals—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

While this particular issue would not have a significant impact on the college community, according to Hatheway, communication and women and gender studies double major sophomore Clara Gallagher expressed other concerns regarding water quality. 

“There has been knowledge of the pipes having lead in it and the water supply’s nearing contamination for a really long time and this could have been avoided, from what I understand,” Gallagher said. “I think, overall, it’s a pollution issue. It’s an environmental issue. So, for college students, stop buying water. Use the water filters on-campus, keep using a reusable bottle. There are little things that we can do to make sure it doesn’t get worse.” 

The college reported lead content in 15 water fixtures last academic year, according to a February 2017 article from The Lamron. The village hopes to continue working on improving the problem, according to Hatheway. 

“This is showing some cooperation … to try to reach a solution that makes sense and is not cost prohibitive,” Hatheway said. “We still have very inexpensive water, and we’re trying to maintain that.”