Chlorine is being injected into the drinking water in south Farmington to fight a periodic contamination problem that some residents blame for stomach and other health problems.
The city is working with county and state health officials to pinpoint and fight the problem, City Manager Max Forbush told the City Council Wednesday.Recent tests have turned up a type of coliform bacteria in the system, water supervisor Dave White told the council. It is a non-fecal variety of coliform, he said, meaning it does not come from human or animal waste.
The coliform could be living in pipes in the system and be periodically stirred up by warm weather or other causes, White said.
Residents in the area have complained to state and county health officials about the problem, which dates back to last summer, blaming it for illnesses, especially stomach ailments.
"While unable to conclusively establish, some of us believe that some illness and discomfort we have experienced and observed in our children in the last year has resulted from the contaminated water," resident Brian Allred said in a letter to the city.
A meeting for residents has been set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, in City Hall to discuss the problem. State and county health officials will also attend.
Forbush emphasized the city is complying with all state and county health department regulations on testing its water supply and is working with health officials to pinpoint and treat the problem.
White said a recent project completing a water line loop in the area stirred up sediment in the water and also brought a rash of complaining calls. It may have also stirred up the contaminants in the system, he said.
The city is injecting 0.5 parts per million (ppm) of chlorine into the system, nearly double the 0.3 ppm that is standard, White said, which has also sparked some complaints.
"Very tasty," said coun-cil-member Tammy Boyce, who lives in the area.
The city is investigating two sources for the contamination, either a cross connection between the culinary and the non-treated irrigation systems or a chronic infestation of the bacteria that flares up periodically, White said.
Based on a mapping of reported outbreaks, investigators are leaning away from the cross connection theory and more toward the chronic infestation, White said, which can be treated by chlorination.
He emphasized that testing of the wells in the area show they are clean.
The problem is limited to the city's south end, White said, and has not shown up north of 600 North Street. That area gets its water from the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which chlorinates its supply, White said.
Forbush said neither the state nor county health departments have received any reports from doctors of water-borne disease diagnoses, which they are required to report.
"We need to emphasize that, from an operations standpoint, the public works crews are constantly relying on advice from the state and county health departments," Forbush told the council. "We're not operating on our own here, in a vacuum."
White said in addition to chlorinating, he may flush the lines more often, perhaps once a month instead of annually.