Online reports from WNEM and other news outlets have reported that recent tests of Caseville, Michigan’s water supply showed excessive levels of Trihalomethine. Trihalomethanes are formed as a by-product when chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water. Trihalomethanes forced the first water safety regulations to be issued after passage of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974.
Chemical Byproduct in Water System Seen in 2016 Testing
Caseville said they are seeing 2017 average test results at of Trihalomethine at 88 parts per billion. Caseville’s 2016 Water Report showed measurements of Trihalomethine ranging from 40 to 100 parts per billion. Four tests were conducted in 2016 with an overall average at 74 parts per billion. The safety standard is 80 parts per billion.
We spoke with Troy Hartz, Superintendent of the Caseville Water Plant. Caseville’s water supply comes from Saginaw Bay. He noted that the measurements in August have the highest level of Trihalomethine due to the warmer water from the lake. Hartz noted that the Michigan DEQ informed him that there are other Michigan water systems who draw surface water from lakes who are also experiencing the high Trihalomthine measurements during August testing.
Steps Being Taken
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has been brought in to the Caseville Water Plant to determine the best way to address the problem and comply with the water safety standard. Hartz indicated that adjustments may be made of the amount of chlorine applied at Caseville’s pumping station to address the concern.
Caseville has not asked residents to seek other water sources but has asked residents with health concerns to consult with their doctor.
Long-term exposure to high levels of Trihalomethanes can lead to kidney or liver damage and an increased risk for cancer.
Imagine yourself at the beach on a bright sunny late morning. It is hot. The kids are playing in the sand. A cool breeze comes in from Saginaw Bay. Time for a refreshing drink. You open the cooler. You have a glass bottle of frosty beer or a plastic bottle of ice-cold water. Which do you chose?
Shock! No Water from Tap or Bottle is Really Clean
New research by Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization based in Washington, D.C., showed that a single plastic bottle of water contains from a few dozens to thousands of strands of microscopic plastic. Researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia conducted the study. Their results showed that on average, a plastic liter bottle of water contained about 10.4 microplastic particles about the width of a human hair.
The groups earlier work on the level of plastic found in tap water inspired the study. The University showed the “ubiquitous plastic contamination in tap water across the globe, with the highest rate found in the U.S”
In 2017, the United Nations issued a report that noted that more than a quarter of all fish now contain plastic. They analyzed the guts of fish sold at markets in Indonesia and California.
Great Lakes Severely Affected by Micro Plastic
Cosmetic and home product companies, including Clarins, Estée Lauder, and Proctor & Gamble have pledged to halt the sale and cease utilizing ‘microbeads’, small plastic pieces used as an exfoliating agent in soap and make-up. In 2012 we published a story that a study was conducted showing that microplastic was found in Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay. The 2012 study, was conducted by the 5 Gyres Institute headed by Dr. Sherri Mason SUNY College at Fredonia New York. Water samples were taken in the Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario and showed an average abundance was approximately 43,000 microplastic particles/km2.
No Way to Stop Micro-Pollution?
Synthetic fibers released into the Great Lakes and oceans occur even after the water has been treated. The tiny fibers seep into the lakes from laundry water from artificial fabrics like fleece and polyester. This is the source and one of the biggest causes of plastic pollution in the ocean.
Micro Plastic Effect on Humans Uncertain – But It Doesn’t Look Good
The plastic pollution problem may be even worse in the Great Lakes than in the oceans. The University of Wisconsin-Superior found that the number of microparticles — which are more harmful to marine life because of their small size — was 24 percent higher in the Great Lakes than in samples they collected in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. 65 million pounds of fish are caught in the Great Lakes each year. Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said that the bits of plastic have a great capacity to attract persistent pollutants to their surface. “Plastics are not just acting as mimic food, but they can also cause physical damage to the organism,” she said. The EPA warns that Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBTs) chemicals or substances pose a risk to the marine environment because they resist degradation, persisting for years or even decades. PBTs are toxic to humans and marine organisms and have been shown to accumulate at various levels through the food chain.
Clearly, more work needs to be done to ascertain the effect on health and to develop processes to clean and prevent this micro-pollution.