PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At an intake station on the Monongahela River, Pennsylvania American Water brings in hundreds of thousands of gallons a day for treatment.
In that past that treatment involved chlorine, but next month to comply with new federal and state disinfectant standards, Pennsylvania American Water will begin using a blend of chlorine and ammonia called chloramine.
“Chloramine is a safe commonly used disinfectant,” Gary Lobaugh, of Pennsylvania American Water, said.
The ammonia is meant to kill parasites and prevent unwanted compounds in the treatment process which health officials have identified as dangerous.
While the ammonia itself sounds off-putting, Pennsylvania American Water says it’s greatly diluted and safe.
But not everyone is convinced. The switch from chlorine to chloramine caused a public outcry in San Francisco and local clean water activists have their own fears and concerns.
Opponents like Tom Dwyer say there is evidence of adverse reactions to chloramine and he says its use should be halted until in-depth studies are conducted.
“Liver damage, lung damage, studies show long-term carcinogenic effects throughout the entire body,” Dwyer said.
CMU Professor Dave Dzombak says the federal Environmental Protection Agency has conducted an extensive study of chloramine and has approved its use throughout the country.
“EPA’s looked at the safety of using chloramine from a public health viewpoint and is comfortable with it,” he said. “It’s been studied for a long time and it’s being deployed in a number of cities.”