UNION CITY — Union City’s drinking water still violates safety standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
But there is a small glimmer of hope that strategies to remove some of the potentially harmful chemical byproducts that form when the water is treated with chlorine may be working, however slowly, before the liquid lands in your drinking glass.
Still, the engineering firm hired by the Union City Municipal Authority, which oversees the borough’s water supply that originates at Union City Reservoir, says sorting out the test results of recent water samples will take some time.
“By the end of November, we will have a good idea as to how we can come into compliance, if that’s possible, with your existing system,” said Gus Maas, president of Hill Engineering of North East.
The municipal authority is being mandated by the government to clean up the borough’s water.
Levels of two chemical byproducts — trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids — have exceeded the EPA’s safety standards.
The EPA requires that the average of any four quarterly tests for trihalomethanes, which have been linked with certain forms of cancer, must be 80 parts per billion or below.
The EPA standard for haloacetic acids is an average of 60 ppb for any four quarterly tests.
The authority now is working under a consent order with the state Department of Environmental Protection that allows the authority to continue to operate the water treatment plant on Route 6 while the authority tries different treatment methods to comply with the DEP’s disinfectant byproduct rule.
The order required the authority to begin treating water in “series mode” beginning July 1. That means that water is first placed in a sedimentary basin without chlorine in order to give organic material in the water more time to settle before being treated. The water then is moved to a second basin, where it is treated with chlorine.
In mid-August, however, the authority, at the request of Hill Engineering, received permission from the DEP to eliminate prechlorination as a treatment method to try to lower the level of chemical byproducts.
That process will continue until Sept. 30, when the DEP will require the authority to revert to series mode treatment.
Some of the water sample results for trihalomethane levels have been encouraging, Maas said.
“The samples that we had in June and July showed improvement but we still were not in compliance with the disinfectant byproduct rule,” Maas said. “We do have sample data from July 20 through Aug. 11 that, again, showed continued improvement. In fact some of the sample results at the entry point were less than the standard, which is a good sign.”