In tests to reduce the cost of water treatment options, the City of Sacramento added carcinogenic chemicals to its water supply without informing residents. The testing took place in 2013 and 2014.
Officials experimented with a aluminum chlorohydrate chemical (ACH) to try to find a cheaper method of removing sediment, silt, and other impurities in the water supply. The chemical known as ALUM was being used at the time. When tests showed ACH was ineffective as a treatment, excessive quantities of chlorine were added to the water supply. The combination of ACH and ACH ended up producing carcinogenic toxins known as disinfection byproducts (DBPs).
According to chemical analysis of the water funded by some Sacramento media, THMs are in the same chemical class as chloroform. One analysis showed dozens of readings in excess of the EPA standard of 80 parts-per-billion during the year-long trial. The reports reads, "In the Westlake neighborhood, near Sleep Train Arena, during a two-month period between August and October 2013, 11 of 13 readings were above EPA limits. Then in March of 2014, readings were way up across the city. Some people were drinking water with DBP levels above 130 parts-per-billion.”
Water treatment expert Bob Bowcock says,“This community was basically looked at as a laboratory guinea pig, in that they were exposed to violation level trihalomethanes for up to one year without any proper notification whatsoever. Every corner you turn, on this particular project, it’s red flag, red flag, red flag. It’s like peeling back an onion. There is just another layer. The closer you get to the center, the stronger the smell.”
“Pregnant women and unborn babies are especially vulnerable to DBPs," says Bowcock. "In first trimester pregnancies, there’s a significant rise in miscarriages, and in third trimester there’s evidence of low birth weight." He adds DBP-tainted water is even more dangerous when its mists are breathed in while showering or washing dishes.
The City of Sacramento has admitted it did experiment with some alternative treatments, but says it can not make any further statement until internal investigations have been completed.
The City of Sacramento’s Utility Director, Bill Busath, says, “There was an expectation that we would be able to save quite a bit of money.”
Those attempts to save city funds may now cost multi-millions of dollars, if residents take the City to court.